The Peaceable Kingdom: A Work in Progress.

Over 300 years ago, William Penn envisioned The Peaceable Kingdom.  What subsequently ensued has not been Peaceable, but it is also a story that is still being written.   William Penn House, in partnership with Western Quaker Workcamps, has embarked on a new program that builds on past programs, building community partners and envisioning the future.  Our objectives in this project are not to complete a set of goals but to develop relations.  For us, this is the Quaker Testimony of Community in action. 

From July 25 to August 7, 2011, William Penn House will be leading a Workcamp to Pine Ridge Reservation as we continue to engage in the issues of economic and social justice, including looking at the past and future of Quakers, Native Americans, indigenous peoples, and the unfolding story of our country.  (Click for Flyer).  The cost is $800/person for one week, or $1500 for two weeks.  Cost does not include transportation into Rapid City, SD, but covers all costs of the Workcamp.  As much as possible, we encourage people to be a part of both weeks to get the greatest experience.  This is a multi-generational Workcamp; all are welcome.  

As we did last year, we will weave our way into a small part of the community as we explore questions of what is, what needs done, and what is ours to do.  Specific activities will be determined over the next few months, but will most likely follow a similar schedule to the recent Workcamp.  We will be going to the home to the Oglala Lakota Nation, and is also home of Wounded Knee where the last Indian Massacre took place (in 1890) as well as where the last Indian uprising took place (in 1973).  It is a beautiful land on the edge of the Badlands.  It is a land that faces many challenges economically and culturally as it strives to bring the faith, traditions, and practices of the Lakota people to the future. (More pictures can be seen here)

Among the activities we participated in include:

  • Preparing grounds for a Sundance Ceremony.  The Sundance Ceremony is among the most sacred of ceremonies.  It is an intensive, exhaustive four-day ceremony of dancing, chanting praying and fasting. In addition to helping prepare (digging and finishing an outhouse, painting a cook house, breaking rocks for a sweat lodge, and finishing the ceremony arbor), we were invited to participate in sweat lodges and the Sundance ceremony itself.  This greatly enriched our appreciation for and understanding of the traditions, while also opening doors for broadening our relations and sense of community.


  • Assisting in the development of an "earth home complex". (See video below)  Gerald Weasel had been trying for years to build a home for him and his boys on his family land after a fire burned all their possessions.  His son's wife, Shannon Freed, initiated a plan to make this happen using native soils to both build the home and develop a model of using the soils for diverse farming.  Sustainable Homestead Designs was born.  After gathering materials and laying the foundation, House Alive arrived in late June to build a "cob house" in 8 weeks.  Our role was to help with sifting clay, building a sandbox for Shannon and Adam's daughter, Raven, painting gutters, and weeding the organic garden.  At the same time, we were inspired by the vision of what is possible, readily available and affordable.  As we learned from Shannon and House Alive's Coenraad Rogman, it's more about patience, perseverance, learning and creating, bumps and all. 


More important than any service work was the affirmation that "community" is perhaps one of the most important of the Quaker Testimonies that we can bring to the world.  The participants developed a strong sense of community, and as we spent time on these projects, we also developed a sense of community with the people we shared meals with, sweat with, and shared stories with.  It is this "community" bond that strengthens us to face bigger challenges while eroding the barriers of "separation" and "difference" - the very barriers that lead to indifference and plant the seeds of violence. 

We will continue to build on this powerful experience and stay open to opportunities that emerge.  It is one way we can continue to practice our commitment to Radical Hospitality in our facilities and in all that we do.