The Quaker Indigenous Boarding Schools: Facing Our History and Ourselves

A slide presentation by Paula Palmer, Gail Melix, and Andrew Grant, recorded on November 15, 2022


What does the Quaker history of running Indigenous boarding schools and the ongoing impact on Native communities mean for Friends today? How can Friends contribute toward healing?

This educational resource is offered by Beacon Hill Friends House, Friends Peace Teams, and the New England Yearly Meeting Right Relationship Resource Group. 

"​I know that this process will be long and difficult. I know that this process will be painful. It won’t undo the heartbreak and loss we feel. But only by acknowledging the past can we work toward a future that we’re all proud to embrace."

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Quakers managed more than thirty schools for Native American children. Some Quaker schools operated with federal funds and carried out the government’s policy of forced assimilation. Quakers separated Indigenous children from their parents and tried to remake them in the Euro-American Quaker image, causing tremendous harm.


The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition has told us that the first step in a truth, reconciliation, and healing process is truth-telling. Put another way — in order for healing to occur, we must bring the full truth about the boarding schools and their ongoing consequences for Native families to light in the United States.


This educational resource offers a way to explore the findings of Paula Palmer’s research into Quaker support for Indigenous boarding schools to help bring some of that truth to light. We aim to understand this history and its current impacts, as well as how Friends can take responsibility for our part in the historic and ongoing harm done to Native Peoples. 


**** Note that this resource explores traumatic history and includes sensitive content. 


Paula Palmer


Boulder Meeting and Friends Peace Teams

Gail Melix


Herring Pond Wampanoag Tribe and Sandwich Meeting

Andrew Grant


Mt. Toby Meeting

General guidance for use of the recording

This recording should be accompanied by more planned programming (guidelines below) when used by Meetings or other groups.

How to request an event for your group

You can request that the presenters, Paula, Gail, and Andrew, visit your group to be a part of the discussion after showing this recording. They will attend depending on availability. For more information and requests, email Paula Palmer (

The November 15th event recording:

Guidelines for showing this recording as part of a program for your Quaker meeting or group

It’s important for Quakers and others to understand the involvement of Friends in the creation and operation of Indigenous boarding schools. This slide presentation reports research about the rationales Friends used to justify their involvement, how the Native children were treated (including violence and cultural erasure), and how Native parents and children both resisted and suffered from forced assimilation.


The slide presentation may bring up painful emotions, especially for people with trauma histories and/or are Black, Indigenous or other persons of color who have had similar experiences. 


As you plan to screen this event, please consider how you can provide spaces for emotional and spiritual grounding, should these needs arise.


See one recommended format below. If you would like additional support for planning your event, contact Paula Palmer ( or Jennifer Newman, Program Director for Beacon Hill Friends House (


Recommended format for showing this event to a small group: 
Recommended small group format: 

Queries for small group discussion:
Hearing this history, what thoughts and feelings arise for you? How might you and your meeting be led to respond?

Recommended follow-up event: 

We encourage you to consider offering a follow-up worship/discussion space for participants to reflect on what they heard at your first event. 

Additional queries for a follow-up event:
What did we physically and/or emotionally experience during the initial session? ​What heartens us and/or grieves us from the session? ​Are we feeling led to respond to the call for Friends to contribute toward healing (how?)?

For New Englanders, consider making a donation to the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project. This amazing organization is working to bring back to life the ancestral language of the Mashpee, Aquinnah, Assonet & Herring Pond Wampanoag communities after more than 150 years of dormancy. This work directly relates to the harms done by Indigenous Boarding Schools that engaged in cultural erasure.

Further guidance for Quaker Meetings

Friends have some additional practices we have found important to supporting gatherings engaging with this content that we encourage meetings to consider. These are: 

Here are the descriptions of these roles that Beacon Hill Friends House used for the event on November 15, 2022: 

Elder for the body

Pastoral care:

Care of worship: 

Small Group Facilitator

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