The Loss of Turtle Island

Inspired by a similar exercise of Canadian focus, created by Kairos,a Canadian Social Justice Coalition, “The Loss of Turtle Island,” has been developed by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

“The Loss of Turtle Island” is a participatory learning experience that depicts the historic relationship between European settlers — including Mennonites — and the Indigenous nations, the original inhabitants, of the land we now call the United States of America.

Blankets represent the land and participants represent distinct Indigenous nations who experience colonization, genocide, broken treaties, forced removal, assimilation and termination — all in the spirit of the Doctrine of Discovery.

“Turtle Island” is a term that originates from the creation stories of Indigenous nations in Canada and the U.S. For example, according to Iroquois oral history, Sky Woman fell down to the earth when it was covered with water. Various animals tried to swim to the bottom of the ocean to bring back dirt to create land. Muskrat succeeded in gathering dirt, which was placed on the back of a turtle, which grew into the land known today as Canada and the U.S.

This exercise is not a comprehensive history, but rather a selection of policies, actions and voices. It also does not address the history of Alaska or Hawaii. Portions of the exercise specifically name Mennonite involvement because it is one of the church communities deeply affiliated with Mennonite Central Committee.

For information on opportunities to participate in the experience near you contact your nearest MCC office.