Thinking About Issues of Native Rights and Social Justice 

Jewish Solidarity with Native American People (JSNAP) works with Native American 

communities to link our Jewish values towards supporting Native land and cultural 

rights.   Add sections from JSNAP’s insert at the recommended places in the seder or simply have 

it available for guests to read over as they like!  

Use this piece during the discussion of Miriam’s Cup.  

In the Passover story, Miriam the prophetess is a true community organizer, leading her people across 

the Red Sea in song and dance and helping them to feel the power of liberation! Miriam knows that their 

power lies in the full diversity of the community. Everyone, man or woman, can be a great leader.  

Another story is told about Miriam and her brother Aaron challenge Moses’ prophetic authority asking: 

“Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?  Has he not spoken through us also?” (Numbers, 12:2).  Like 

women throughout history, Miriam bears the brunt of the penalty for her and Aaron’s actions.  While 

Aaron is left unpunished, Miriam suffers leprosy and is sent to live outside of the camp for a week.  

Though G-d and Moses instruct the community to continue in the wilderness, they refuse and insist on 

waiting until Miriam returns.  This story illustrates the power of fierce women in our communities, 

demonstrating that gender diversity is critical on our long path to liberation.   

The example Miriam sets is reflected in the work that women organizers are doing all over the country, 

including those in Native American communities.  Winona LaDuke is a fiery Anishanaabe Native rights 

and environmental activist who founded the White Earth Land Recovery Project in Minnesota and the 

international Indigenous Women’s Network. Winona's calls for action against destruction of sacred land 

have made tremendous impacts on both indigenous people and the world at large.  She speaks to 

women’s experience and, like Miriam, maintains a feminist perspective in her work.  She writes: 

“We, collectively, find that we are often in the role of the prey, to a predator of society, whether for 

sexual discrimination, exploitation, sterilization, absence of control over our bodies, or being the 

subjects of repressive laws and legislation in which we have no voice. This occurs on an individual 

level, but equally, and more significantly on a societal level. It is also critical to point out at this time, 

that most matrilineal societies, societies in which governance and decision making are largely controlled 

by women, have been obliterated from the face of the Earth by colonialism, and subsequently 

industrialism. The only matrilineal societies which exist in the world are those of Indigenous nations. 

We are the remaining matrilineal societies, yet we also face obliteration.” 

Like Miriam, Winona and the organizations she helped to form provide spaces for indigenous women to 

develop political consciousness and a powerful national voice.  During Passover, we can all be moved 

by Miriam and Winona’s work and strive to be concious of creating inclusive communities as we cross 

from slavery to freedom.  

Use this piece before singing Hallel and think about what it means to transition from slavery to freedom.   

Exodus and Liberation translate many different ways for different communities, religious groups, and 

individuals.  Chief Tom Dostou of the Wabanaki Nation of Massachusetts offers the following prayer in 

an excerpt from a larger piece describing his journey across his ancestral homeland of “Turtle Island.”   

"We will pray for the American peoples who send their sons and daughters 

out to foreign lands to be mutilated and or die for the flag which has been 

prostituted for the oil profits of a few to the expense of many. 

We will pray for the children of those brought over here in chains from 

Africa and the children of Abraham, Issac and Ishmael. 

And we will pray for the children of the Pilgrims and Puritans whose 

ancestors came here to escape religious persecution and economic slavery 

but who once offered hospitality and safety lost their vision and became the 


And finally we will pray for the American Indian people who are now 

exiles in our own homelands. We will pray that the spiritual connection 

which the indigenous peoples of this land have cherished and maintained 

despite overwhelming odds and obstacles will continue to be the backbone 

and staff upon which this land rest."

Use this piece in tandem with the telling of the Exodus story.  Think about the connection between 

the Jewish story of Exodus from Egypt to more contemporary examples of persecution and forced 

migration. How did the formation of the territory now known as the United States depend upon 

the forced migration of people already residing on the land? 

The Hebrews’ Exodus from Egypt is a climactic moment in the Passover story. After suffering for 

generations as slaves in Egypt, the Hebrews cross the Sea of Reeds and head into the desert with only 

matzah, the bread of affliction. Led by Miriam and Moses, the community seeks its freedom from 

slavery, oppression, and violence by wandering in the desert for forty years. Though this is a long 

struggle, the Hebrews’ persistence leads them to the Promised Land.   

More contemporary examples demonstrate that forced migrations are not a thing of the past. In 1863 and 

’64, the United States government forcibly removed the Navajo Nation from its ancestral homeland in 

Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado. Prior to this forced move, the US Army went to war with 

the Navajo and Apache tribes, destroying much of their community. The US Army, led by Kit Carson, 

then forced 8,500 Navajo people to march 400 miles to their internment in Bosque Redondo, a forty 

square-mile area. This is now known as the Navajo Long Walk.   

Over 200 people died after walking through the harsh winter for two months. Many more perished after 

arriving in the barren Bosque Redondo reservation, where disease, crop failure, and poor irrigation made 

survival almost impossible. The Navajos also had their own “bread of affliction.” They were given 

meager rations of only flour and coffee beans, but because the coffee beans were unfamiliar to this 

community, they tried to boil them and starved.   

After the Navajo were recognized as a sovereign nation under the Treaty of 1868, they returned to their 

homeland on the Arizona- New Mexico border (one of very few tribes who were allowed to do so). 

Though their lands were greatly reduced by the US Army and government, the Navajo worked hard to 

take care of their livestock and rebuild their community.   

Can you draw parallels between the Jewish Exodus from Egypt and the Navajo Long Walk? What are 

the key similarities and differences between these histories? What do you know about the long-term 

effects of forced migration and persecution on contemporary American Indian communities?  

As we observe Passover to commemorate the hardships of our ancestors, how can we act in solidarity 

with American Indian communities’ histories of persecution, forced migration, and genocide?

haggadah Section: Commentary / Readings
Source: http://avodah.net/assets/JSNAP-Passover-Insert-Final.pdf