INDIGENOUS PEOPLES GATHER AT MEXICAN CONSULATE IN NEW YORK TO LINK DISAPPEARANCE OF 43 AYOTZINAPA STUDENTS TO DOCTRINE OF DISCOVERY’S CONTINUING ROLE IN OPPRESSION OF NATIVE PEOPLES
LEADERS CALL ON POPE FRANCIS, FIRST POPE FROM THE SO-CALLED NEW WORLD, TO CURE THE PATHOGEN THAT CONTINUES TO INFEST THE WORLD
15TH CENTURY PAPAL BULLS AUTHORIZED EUROPEAN NATIONS TO SEIZE AND DOMINATE LANDS UNOCCUPIED BY CHRISTIANS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SEPTEMBER 25, 2015
Indigenous peoples from around the Western Hemisphere came to the Mexican consulate in New York today to demand justice for 43 students who disappeared one year ago in Ayotzinapa,Guerrero, Mexico calling on Pope Francis to renounce the Doctrine of Discovery which continues to provide the legal underpinnings for on-going oppression of native peoples across the Americas.
“The deaths of these 43 Ayotzinapa students is another example of the body count that has piled up since 1493 when the Doctrine of Discovery provided the roots of impunity and immunity with which the so-called discoverers of the so-called New World considered citizens of indigenous nations as less than human because they were not Christians,” said Tupac Enrique Acosta, a member of the Nahuatl Nation and firekeeper for the Continental Confederacy of Original Nations.
“The threats of globalization so widely discussed today began for indigenous peoples in the 15th century when the Euopeans brought an unholy combination of genocidal economic exploitation and evangelization,” Enrique Acosta said. “The first Pope from the Americas must seize the opportunity to remove this pathogen that continues to this day to provide the legal and evangelical underpinnings for the continuing oppression.”
The group of indigenous leaders arrived in New York to take part in the International Tribunal of Justice upon the anniversary of the forced disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students on September 26th 2014. The International Tribunal of Justice will begin Friday evening and continue through Saturday at New York University.
Pope Francis gave great encouragement to indigenous peoples during a Mass in Bolivia in June when he said, "I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offenses of the church herself, but also for the crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America.”
He did not simply blame the conquistadores who carried out the genocidal campaign of cultural, religious and economic exploitation. He blamed the Church itself for providing the evangelical and legal justifications for those crimes.
But he stopped short of renouncing the Doctrine, which authorized European explorers who “discovered” new lands unoccupied by Christian to consider them empty and seize them in perpetuity from the “barbarous nations” that lived there.
“There can be no justice for Indigenous Peoples until his Church renounces the instrument used for more than 500 years to ignore and dismiss the rights of Indigenous Nations and Peoples,” said Betty Lyons, the president of the American Indian Law Alliance and a citizen of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy’s Onondaga Nation’s Snipe Clan.
“The Doctrine of Discovery is not ancient history to Indigenous Peoples in this country, or to Indigenous Peoples around the world,” said Tadodaho Sidney Hill, the traditional leader of the Haudenosaunee. “It is a living insult to our rights as citizens of the world and must be renounced. We are on the Earth to heal the world. This wound must be healed.”
Religious leaders around the world – including the World Council of Churches, the Episcopal and Methodist conventions, the Friends (Quakers) and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an association of nuns – has called on the Church to renounce the Doctrine.
The World Council, in a resolution, denounced the Doctrine as “fundamentally opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ” and urged governments “to dismantle the legal structures and policies based on the Doctrine of Discovery and dominance, so as to empower and enable indigenous peoples to identify their own aspirations and issues of concern.”
The Leadership conference said, “We humbly and respectfully ask Pope Francis to lead us in formally repudiating the period of Christian history that used religion to justify political and personal violence against indigenous peoples’ cultural, religious and territorial identities,” the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an association of nuns, said.
The Philadelphia Friends Yearly Meeting’s Indian Committee declared the Doctrine provided justification for European explorers “to take over indigenous lands and possessions, and to enslave, kill, or subject the indigenous peoples they encountered . . . For us to continue to remain silent would be tantamount to our giving continuing approval to these abusive acts of theft and cultural genocide."
Indigenous leaders have met with Church officials at the Holy See, and pressed their case at the United Nations through the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the UN Committee on Decolonization. But despite protestations by the Papal Nuncio at the UN that the Doctrine is ancient history, it remains the bedrock of U.S. Indian land law.
The Doctrine was explicitly cited as recently as 2005 by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in rejecting a case brought by the Oneida Nation of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy concerning land in upstate New York that had been part of the original footprint of land set aside for the Haudenosaunee in the 1793 Treaty of Canandaigua signed on behalf of the United States by George Washington.
“Under the Doctrine of Discovery, fee title to the land occupied by Indians when the colonists arrived became vested in the sovereign – first the discovering European nations and later the original state and the United States,” Justice Ginsburg wrote in City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York.
As Pope Francis visits Great Turtle Island or Abya Yala (North America), indigenous leaders have been encouraged by his vision for his papacy, in his respect for the sanctity of Mother Earth, and for his acknowledgment of European colonizers’ appalling actions in seizing our lands with impunity.
But they argue there can be no justice for Indigenous Peoples until his Church renounces the instrument used for more than 500 years to ignore and dismiss the rights of Indigenous Nations and Peoples.
“If the first Pope from the so-called New World cannot take this step, we despair at the Church ever seeing its way clear to right this historic, and ongoing, grave injustice,” said Lyons from the American Indian Law Alliance.