In late September, Mennonite Men board members Jon Zirkle, Doug Amstutz, and US Coordinator Steve Thomas participated in accompaniment training at Shalom Mennonite Fellowship in Tucson, Arizona, at the invitation of the Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery.
The training, provided by Community Peacemaker Teams, prepared participants to to join the Coalition's work at Oak Flat by serving as interns alongside trained CPTers while camping at Oak Flat, praying with/on the land, and traveling with and taking direction from Apache Stronghold leaders. Tim Nafziger, a volunteer with the Coalition with strong ties to CPT, attended as support staff and Deborah Yoder was the Coalition staff person on the ground.
"This CPT training, shared Thomas, "was a first step in exploring a partnership of engaging men in the work of accompanying Indigenous people in pursuing justice, reparations, and creation care."
Photos: (above) Steve Thomas, Jeremy Gilchrist, and Theo Kayser during small group discussions (photo taken by Deborah Yoder); (below) Flat Oak, Arizona (photo courtesy of Community Peacemaker Teams).
Apache Stronghold is a group led by the San Carlos Apache and their allies. They are engaged in religious and legal efforts to defend their sacred site of Chi’chil Biłdagoteel (Oak Flat) from being destroyed by a multinational copper mining company.
There were 14 total participants from across North America who followed the training curriculum provided by two CPT trainers, Julie Brown and Rachelle Friesen. During the training participants were vulnerable in their sharing as they talked and worked through various exercises focused on team building, exploring personal comfort zones, finding creative ways to break the pillars of White Supremacy, and recognizing privilege and leveraging it. It was a fulfilling experience to see so many dedicated individuals invested in this work.