11 October 2021: Happy Indigenous People’s Day!
Condemning the White-Supremacist “Doctrine of Discovery”
As a ministry operating in Wellesley, Massachusetts, as a part of Wellesley Friends Meeting, the BlackQuaker Project acknowledges that the land on which we are roosting belongs to the Nipmuc and Massachusetts nations. In recognition of Indigenous People’s Day, we wish to celebrate the Nimpuc and Massachusset peoples and cultures, along with over 500 other Native Ameircan sovereignties, who have managed to resist and survive centuries of colonization, genocide, and dispossession.
Indigenous People’s Day has been established as a counter-celebration to Columbus Day to protest the violent legacy of colonization that the European explorer, Christopher Columbus, represents. However, the history behind European settler colonialism and imperialism goes far deeper than Columbus. On 4 May 1493 Pope Alexander VI issued the Papal Bull, "Inter Caetera," declaring any land inhabited by non-Christians could be seized and occupied by Christians. What began as a political strategy to justify Spain’s and Portugal’s exclusive rights in the Americas became an institutionalized and religiously sanctioned practice of forced removal, enslavement, and genocide known as the “Doctrine of Discovery.” Adopted by countless European settlers, the Doctrine has been used over the past 5 centuries to justify the continued occupation of Indigenous American land. As an international public law it has also been invoked by the USA Supreme Court to deny claims of Indigenous sovereignty, including the 2005 case of Sherrill v. Oneida Nation, where the Oneida people were denied tax exemption for regained portions of their stolen land. The Doctrine has shaped current USA federal laws that enable the continued persecution of Native Americans. In 2012 the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) denounced the “Doctrine of Discovery.” Religious institutions, such as the General Council of the Episcopal Church (2009) and the USA Presbyterian Church (2016) also condemned the Doctrine. In our above, complimentary graphic, we quote New England Yearly Meeting of Friends’ (NEYM) 2013 Minute Repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery. To learn more about how present-day Friends are working to make amends to Indigenous Americans, see the work of Quaker Bolivia Link, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation, among other Quaker efforts. Also we refer you to NEYM’s Right Relationship with Indigenous Peoples: Local Discernment and Action page on their website to learn how various Meetings are working towards better relationships with Indigenous Americans in their respective regions.
How can Friends and others work to make amends for the legacy of the “Doctrine of Discovery,” both theologically and politically? How can we build better relationships with Indigenous People?
Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments and questions. Visit our website to learn more about our ongoing activities related to Truth, Justice, Equity, Community, and Peace. We plan to release additional information on the relationship between Indigenous Americans and Quakers, including William Penn, in our forthcoming Thanksgiving mailing.
-- The BlackQuaker Project