As Indian Country Today’s Gale Courey Toensing notes here, indigenous people have most recently been in the news because of their strong voices during last week’s Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
Less noticed is the fact that they also participated in the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions, asking the Pope to repudiate the Christian Doctrine of Discovery. That conference, which meets every five years, was held earlier this month in Australia.
A Haudenosaunee delegation was among the groups saying it’s time to disavow the racist, 15th century Doctrine that, as Toensing writes, allows powerful countries to dehumanize indigenous people and devastate the Earth in the quest for resources and markets.
“Overall the trip was very successful in bringing forward the idea of rescinding the papal bulls,” said Jake Swamp, Wolf Clan sub-chief of the Kahniakehaka, Mohawk Nation, author, and founder of the Tree of Peace Society, an international organization promoting peace and environmental conservation.
“I think that’s the most important thing in our time is to finally attack the roots of the oppression experienced by indigenous peoples worldwide.”
The papal bulls were 15th century documents issued by the popes of the Roman Catholic Church giving permission to the kings of Spain and Portugal to conquer and claim “undiscovered” lands, enslave or skill their non-Christian populations, and expropriate their possessions and resources. The English monarchy followed suit with “charters” to explorers such as John Cabot to colonize “the New World.”
The Doctrine of Discovery, which these documents formulated, was a principle of international law – a kind of early trade agreement that whichever Christian European country “discovered” lands populated by non-Christians could claim those lands and resources.
The indigenous delegates also called for immediate action on climate change; the protection of earth-based religions and sacred sites both within and outside their territories; strengthening and protecting indigenous cultures and languages, repatriation of the ancestors’ remains and sacred items, and the support and implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Tags: 2009 Parliament of the World's Religions, buffalo post, Christian Doctrine of Discovery, Climate Change conference, Haudenosaunee, Kahniakehaka, Mohawk Nation, Native American news, Tree of Peace Society, U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples