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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
The Unitarian Universalist
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 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
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.
**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
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
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. http://www.hansherr.org/Home/Longhouse/History
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
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
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
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.