Journey to Honor and Healing recognizes that each culture has a wisdom and knowledge that compliments the whole of humanity. Each race carry's a gift to the world. If the world is to remain in balance, the gifts of each race must be seen as valid and given the right under creator to reach its full potential.

The Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island


We honor and give gratitude to the Indigenous peoples of North America and the Hawaiian Islands and recognize the injustices and great sacrifices they have endured over the past 500 years during the periods of historical conflict and into the present. We recognize that these injustices still negatively impact the Indigenous Peoples, their communities, children, and their future well-being. In order to move forward as brothers with mutual respect and dignity under the will of Creator, to begin the healing, there must be an acknowledgement of the genocide and the profound loss of life, homeland, and liberty that Indigenous Peoples have suffered. We hereby endeavor to create a circle of healing, with compassion and love for the Indigenous Peoples and their dynamic living cultures.

We solemnly request that people from all nations, as well as religious and educational institutions that have played a historical or contemporary role in any injustices to the life, freedom, peace, security, and well-being of Indigenous Peoples, pledge their support to redress the collective trauma that Indigenous Peoples have undergone with the utmost integrity.

Our present goal is to support and further the growing movement of churches, religious and educational organizations towards rebalancing the past and creating authentic relationships with Native Americans with specific actions, such as:

Publicly disavowing the Christian Doctrine of Discovery; advocating for the implementation of the UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights by the United States; and petitioning a formal acknowledgment by the United States Government of the inhuman treatment of Native American boarding school children.

Christian Doctrine of Discovery

Recently several churches have come forward publicly and disavowed the Christian Doctrine of Discovery, which has been an important step in healing the collective trauma of Native Americans today. The Doctrine is a tenet of international law primarily developed by European monarchs and the Catholic Church in the 15th and 16th centuries giving Christian Europeans the right to claim the lands and resources of non-Christian peoples and force them to live under a system of dominance. The Doctrine sanctioned the genocide, dehumanization, and domination of indigenous peoples in the "New World."

This doctrine continues to have influence today as it is embedded in U.S. law through Congress' assumption of plenary power over Indian nations and various U.S. Supreme Court rulings. In 1823 the Supreme Court handed down a decision, which stated that Indians could occupy lands within the United States, but could not hold title to those lands. This was because their "right of occupancy" was subordinate to the United States' "right of discovery." In addition the discovering power gains the exclusive right to extinguish the "right of occupancy" of the indigenous occupants. The U.S. government still uses this archaic doctrine to deny the rights of Native Americans in court cases even into the new millennium. In fact, it remains the dominant legal principle by which many countries including Canada, New Zealand and Australia continue to control the lands and sovereign powers of their indigenous peoples and a major underlying reason of worldwide violations of human rights.

UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007, established a framework of minimum standards for the survival, health, safety, dignity, and basic rights of Indigenous peoples worldwide. In 2010, after years of refusal, the U.S. became the last member of the UN to endorse the declaration. Churches and communities wanting to support honoring and healing should become familiar with the UN declaration. Working collaboratively, with the guidance of Indigenous communities, non-natives can learn how to advance its implementation locally or regionally.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
(PDF Download)

The Boarding School Experiment

Carlisle Indian School, 1892.

The boarding school era for Native Americans created was one of the most tragic chapters of loss in Native cultural identity, and left in its wake a legacy of domestic and sexual violence, alcoholism, displacement, and suicide that continues to affect tribal communities today. Boarding schools separated Native children from their families for years and were designed to teach assimilation into white society with the intention to eradicate the Indigenous culture through forced education, manual labor and church attendance. Some children were forcibly taken as young as four. This practice cost Native communities' generations of lost languages, parenting skills, family nurturing, and severely disrupted tightly knit extended family structures. The first government run boarding school opened in 1879 in Carlisle, PA at the site of an abandoned military base.

An army officer who had experience in running an Indian prisoner of war camp in Saint Augustine Florida, Captain Richard Henry Pratt became the founder of the school. His philosophy "kill the Indian and save the man" was instrumental in the government's approach to the assimilation of Native children. The boarding school reached its peak in the 1970's with an estimate of 60,000 children in 1973.

Congress financially supported mission activities with 200 mission schools. Decades of being stripped of their Indian identity and forced to accept another religion, within an abusive environment also took a destructive toll in fragmenting Native deeply held spiritual beliefs. In order to promote healing churches need to exam and address their own role in this dark era of their history as well as take action in supporting the religious rights of Native Americans today.

Religious Rights

For a country that was founded out of religious freedom and declared those rights in our Constitution's First Amendment, it is ironic that the Native Americans' inherent right to practice their respective spiritual beliefs was not recognized by the US Government until 1978 with the Native American Religious Freedom Act, (Public Law No. 95-341.). Prior to that Native communities were subject to repeated violations by U.S. Governmental agencies with confiscation of sacred objects, prohibition of certain religious rites and ceremonies and desecration of altars and sacred sites. The Potlatch of the Northern Pacific coastal nations, the Ghost Dance and the Sun Dance are just a few of the better-known ceremonies that were forbidden. Those who practiced their Native religion could be persecuted and sent to jail.

In 1978, a congressional report found that state and federal laws continued to hamper and interfere with Native American religious practices which led to the Act requiring the policies of all governmental agencies to eliminate interference with the free exercise of Native religion, based on the First Amendment, and to accommodate access to and use of religious sites.

The major criticism of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act has been its inability to enforce its provisions. The act has served more as a joint resolution than an actual law, particularly with its failure to protect certain sacred sites. The clash between the dominant culture's values and Indigenous values of land use continues to threatened natural sites intrinsic to religious beliefs. Indigenous Peoples spirituality and identify are inseparable from their ancestral lands. The idea of Land based religions has been an alien concept for the most part in the mainstream Judeo-Christian religious perspective. Reverence and mutual interdependence is foremost in regards to the natural world.

Dine' Big Mountain Black Mesa resisters to forced removal

Why is Honor and Healing Needed?

There has never been a formal honor and healing campaign in the U.S. as there has been in other parts of the colonized world (often called truth and reconciliation). Here in the U.S., First Nation's Peoples remain severely marginalized and continue to strive to revitalize their cultures and communities and maintain sovereignty often in the face of substandard living conditions, dire poverty, lack of employment, inferior educational facilities, inadequate health care as well as exploitation of their spirituality.

Many Native American youth feel a sense of hopelessness, isolation, and powerlessness. This is evident in the current tragic suicide epidemic among Native American young people. Honoring and Healing campaigns can create awareness of the challenges that Native people face and the many contributions that Indigenous knowledge and wisdom has made and will continue to make to the world; it can open the door to other opportunities that could assist Native Americans with needed resources for revitalizing their communities.

It cannot be underscored enough, that despite the odds, Indigenous Peoples worldwide are a testimony to the resilience of their people and their ancestors to survive as distinct and unique cultures. It is time to honor the First Nation's Peoples and their many gifts to the circle of humanity, and begin to heal and bring balance to the profound neglect on the part of our society.

Churches & Religious Organizations that have disavowed the Doctrine of Discovery

  • The World Council of Churches (Executive Committee, during its February,
    2012 meeting in Bossey, Switzerland, denounced the “Doctrine of Discovery”)

  • The Unitarian Universalist Church (2012)
    At the 2012 General Assembly in Phoenix, AZ, delegates of the Unitarian Universalist Association passed a resolution repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery and calling on Unitarian Universalists to study the Doctrine and eliminate its presence from the current-day policies, programs, theologies, and structures of Unitarian Universalism. "BE IT RESOLVED that we, the delegates of the 2012 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association, repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery as a relic of colonialism, feudalism, and religious, cultural, and racial biases having no place in the modern day treatment of indigenous peoples."

  • The United Methodist Church (2012)

  • New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (2012)

  • Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (2012)

  • The Loretto Community (in its Loretto Assemble 2012 in St. Louis, MO)

  • The Community of Christ (in Nov., 2012 at the Rocky Mountain Mission Center
    and its World Conference will be addressing this in April, 2013 in Independence, MO)

  • The Anglican Church of Canada took a similar action in 2010.

  • The Unitarian Universalist Church of Tarpon Springs, Florida, On Jan. 24, 2010, issued its Statement of Conscience to "repudiate this Doctrine of Christian Discovery, urging its removal from any standing in U.S. law. Article - Indian Country Today.

  • The Episcopal Church (U.S.) (“Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery,” 2009)
    The Episcopal Church raised the visibility of the Doctrine of Christian Discovery, when in July 2009, the Episcopal Church passed an historical and landmark resolution called "Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery." The resolution passed unanimously by the Episcopal House of Bishops and by an overwhelming majority of the House of Delegates. The Episcopal Church calls for poverty alleviation and seeks to address education, land rights, reconciliation, healing and practical next steps.

  • Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (2009)
    The Indian Committee of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends on December 14th, 2009 issued a resolution renouncing the doctrine, which read, "We find this doctrine to be fundamentally inconsistent with the teaching of Jesus, with our understanding of the inherent rights that individuals and peoples have received from God, and inconsistent with Quaker testimonies of Peace, Equality, and Integrity.

  • United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007)

**Equally, all the above Churches voiced their support of the U.N. Declaration of Indigenous Rights and urged the United States to adopt and implement these rights.

Churches and Communities Initiating Healing & Honoring

There are several groups working towards the goals of acknowledgment and healing. A movement to persuade the Catholic Church to repeal the papal bulls has been in the works for years. Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of the Onondaga Nation, and Spiritual leader, including Executive Committee of the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival and principal figure in the Traditional Circle of Indian Elders, co-signed a letter in 2005 urging Pope Benedict XVI, to revoke the papal bulls. There has been no response from the Vatican.

There also have been actions taken by the World Parliament of Religion.

  • The Collegiate Church of New York, established in New Amsterdam in 1628, held a healing ceremony (Healing Turtle Island) with representatives of the Lenape Indians on Friday, November 27, 2009 in the plaza on in front of the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City.


  • Coleville Indian Reservation Washington State

  • Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society in Lancaster, Pennsylvania held a "Public Acknowledgement and Commemoration of Native American Legacy," including a public apology to Native Peoples on October 9, 2010. An Honor and Healing committee was formed composed of Mennonites, Presbyterians, Quakers, Amish and Native Americans. One outcome was the construction of an authentic longhouse for educational purposes.



Curtis Zunigah, Tribal Manager of the Delaware Tribe of Oklahoma and the carrier of the Wampum Belt of Peace representing four bands of the Delaware nation, at First Presbyterian Church, Lancaster on October 2010 during the service of Honor and Healing.


Some Thoughts on Goals

Honoring and Healing takes courage on both sides. The process calls for potential supporters to deeply listen to the present challenges and perspectives of Native Peoples. Deep emotional scars often surface and potential anger and resentment. We are addressing issues dealing with 500 years involving grossly inhumane treatment, genocide and ethnocide and the many subtleties and not so subtle issues that continue to repress and undermine the inherent right of Native Americans to live to fully as a unique people. Supporters need to be open, non-judgmental, non-defensive, compassionate and willing to hear things that may not fit into their past experiences, historical understandings, religious or spiritual beliefs or worldviews.

  • Develop a clear vision for a collective campaign with a working committee of both Native and non-Native individuals dedicated to achieving the proposed short-term and long-term goals.

  • Further create a network and clearinghouse of information so groups can begin to work together as a collective force for change.

  • Outreach to churches and educational institutes to educate them on these issues and assist them establishing authentic relations based on mutual respect, trust, and dignity with Native American communities.

  • Engage churches in honestly examining their historical roles in relations to Native Americans.

  • Develop literature that would assist churches and educational institutes to initiate their own Honor and Healing events in a manner that is culturally sensitive and appropriate.

  • Outreach to Native American communities to respectfully hear and listen to their concerns, needs, vision for their people and to support their self-determination as well as learn what Honor and Healing means for them.

  • Develop efforts to alleviate the conditions of poverty and support the revitalization of tribal communities.

  • Outreach to academia and encourage educational institutions to partner with Native American communities for the purpose of garnering Native American accounts of historical events.

  • Support Native American Religious Rights: Sacred sites, with emphasis on places of origin and genesis, key species cultural and spiritual significant to belief systems.

  • Create a fund for financial assistance to tribes to purchase ancestral lands and sacred sites of importance to the perpetuation of their culture with financial assistance coming from churches.

  • Create opportunities for the American Indian perspective and voices to be heard in regards to past injustices, in short to "tell their story."

  • To call for that the Native American Treaties be dealt with in a fair and just manner.

  • To outreach to human rights and other life-affirming organization, including international groups to include their involvement.

  • Creating a national public Honoring and Healing Day in acknowledgement of Native Americans and in memory of their great loss and sacrifice.

The Journey to Honor and Healing is a call to humanity to bring balance and remedy the profound neglect on the part of our society of the rights of Indigenous peoples of North America.


Chief Oren Lyons on Doctrine of Discovery

Chief Oren Lyons Biography

The U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Will Be Dominated by Doctrine of Discovery
By Gale Courey Toensing - Indian Country Today Media Network - May 7, 2012