“Disavowing the Doctrine of Discovery”
“The Doctrine of Discovery” created by filmmaker Sheldon Wolfchild is part two of a three-part documentary. Part two focuses on a little known subject traced back to Christopher Columbus’s so-called “discovery” of the lands now commonly known as “the Americas.”
SPIN is sponsoring several showings of the film around the Twin Cities with dialogue around the complex and often painful relationship between Native American peoples and those who have come after them.
Historical and theological perspectives on the tragic treatment of Native peoples by our state, nation and religious institutions, focused on the “Doctrine of Discovery”—the papal edicts European monarchs used as legal and religious justification to seize “discovered” lands and convert or kill “heathen” inhabitants. The doctrine’s legacy is still alive today through the generational trauma of indigenous peoples and in cultural racism that devalues Native peoples’ languages, cultures and religions.
The Doctrine of Discovery, a film by Sheldon Wolfchild
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“The Doctrine of Discovery” created by filmmaker Sheldon Wolfchild is part two of a three-part documentary. Part two focuses on a little known subject traced back to Christopher Columbus’s so-called “discovery” of the lands now commonly known as “the Americas.” The “right of discovery” was adopted and used by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1823 in the case Johnson & Graham’s Lesseev. M’Intosh. The first Christian people to discover lands inhabited by non-Christians or “heathens” had asserted the “ultimate dominion” to be in themselves. On the basis of that religiously premised argument, the Supreme Court defined the land title of the Indians as a “mere right of occupancy.” The Christian power that claimed “ultimate dominion” could grant away the soil while yet in the possession of “heathens.” And this doctrine remains the Supreme Law of the Land in the United States.
Theologian Luis Rivera, who was interviewed for the film, points out in his book A Violent Evangelism: The Religious and Political Conquest of the Americas (1992), that an accurate history must account for the theological and religious justifications for claims of domination over the Indians. Shawnee-Lenape author Steven Newcomb, whose book Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Discovery (1992) is foundational to the film, points out that the language code of domination, metaphorically modeled after the Old Testament, is found in fifteenth century Vatican documents. It is that dominating language code which serves as the basis of the religious racism of U.S. federal Indian law and policy to this day.
For more information about the film contact 38 plus 2 Productions.
Fall 2014 Interfaith Dialogue Series SPIN (St. Paul Interfaith Network)
2014 SPIN Fall Series
Church of All Nations: 4301 Benjamin St. NE. Columbia Heights, MN 55421. http://www.cando.org/
This Land is my land? Conference
OCT 10-11, 2014
SHELDON WOLFCHILD, MARK CHARLES, ANNAMARIE HILL, JIM BEAR JACOBS, JIN S. KIM
Church of All Nations in Columbia Heights, is planning an extensive conference on the Doctrine of Discovery on the weekend around Columbus Day, Friday Oct. 10, film and dialogue; Saturday workshops & speakers; Sunday worship. The conference is entitled “This land is my land?” For a conference schedule and more information: http://www.cando.org/4th-annual-conference/
Cherokee United Church: 371 W Baker St, St Paul, MN 55107. http://www.cherokeeparkunited.org/
Monday, Oct. 13, 7–9:15 p.m.
On Indigenous People’s Day, we will host a public screening of the documentary film Doctrine of Discovery, presented by filmmaker Sheldon Wolfchild of the Lower Sioux Indian Community. The film will be followed by small group dialogues. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. (Film is appropriate for junior high school aged youth and up.)
Tuesday, Oct. 28, 7–9:15 p.m.
We will have a panel discussion exploring how the Doctrine of Discovery is still present today followed by small group dialogue. Panelists include: Perry Altendorfer, historian for the Mendota Mdewakanton Community; Nancy Victorin-Vangerud, Hamline University Chaplin; Sharon Goens-Bradley, Healing Justice Program Director for the Twin Cities Office of the American Friends Service Committee; and Mauro Souza, pastor, theologian, and writer. Former St. Paul School Board member Elona Street-Stewart will moderate the panel.
Grace Lutheran-Apple Valley: Consecutive Weds, Oct. 15 (film) and Oct. 22 (discussion).
Unity Church: Consecutive Wednesdays: Oct 15, Oct 22 and Oct. 29. 733 Portland Ave, St Paul, MN 55104. http://www.unityunitarian.org/
Acknowledgment, Dialogue and Response
Unity Church–Unitarian is hosting a three-part dialogue on the Doctrine of Discovery in an effort to take a hard look at difficult truths about the tragic treatment of Indigenous people by our state, nation and religious institutions. These series is free and open to the public.
Three Wednesdays: October 15, 22, 29 • 7:15-8:30 p.m. • Unity Church
October 15: A Unitarian Universalist Perspective: In preparation for the film, come and learn how Unitarian Universalists have been engaging this issue since the 2012 General Assembly responsive resolution repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery.
October 22: Film Screening: In partnership with SPIN (Saint Paul Interfaith Network) and other faith communities, Unity Church will host a public screening of the documentary film Doctrine of Discovery.
This showing will be presented by filmmaker Sheldon Wolfchild of the Lower Sioux Indian Community.
October 29: Panel Discussion: Join us for a panel discussion and exploration of the modern-day impacts of the Doctrine of Discovery. Speakers include:
Elona Street-Stewart: Associate for racial ethnic ministries for the Presbyterian Church and a Delaware Nanticoke tribal member. Street-Stewart is a former St. Paul School Board member and has worked for years on issues of racial equity.
Jim Bear Jacobs: Parish associate at Church of All Nations and a Mohican Nation member. Jacobs is the Visionary Founder of Healing Minnesota Stories, a group working to create healing between Native and non-Native peoples.
Howard Vogel: Professor emeritus at Hamline Law School who has written on the legal implications of the
Doctrine of Discovery on Minnesota treaties. Vogel also holds an M.A. from United Theological Seminary.
“Disavowing the Doctrine of Discovery” Series Description
A dialogue around the complex and often painful relationship between Native American peoples and those who have come after them. Historical and theological perspectives on the tragic treatment of Native peoples by our state, nation and religious institutions, focused on the “Doctrine of Discovery”—the papal edicts European monarchs used as legal and religious justification to seize “discovered” lands and convert or kill “heathen” inhabitants. The doctrine’s legacy is still alive today through the generational trauma of indigenous peoples and in cultural racism that devalues Native peoples’ languages, cultures and religions.
Goals: The Fall Series seeks to:
• Increase awareness of the Doctrine of Discovery and its legacy.
• Enrich relationships, including hearing indigenous peoples’ stories/views.
• Understand what our faith traditions say and do to respond to such injustice and suffering,
including repudiation of the doctrine.
Format: Three congregations will each host a two-part dialogue. On one night, they each will host a screening of the documentary film “Doctrine of Discovery,” followed by facilitated small group dialogue. Filmmaker Sheldon Wolfchild will attend each event to answer questions. Each site will host a second event focusing on some aspect of the Doctrine of Discovery and historical trauma with additional facilitated small group dialogue. Details are still being worked out.
2014 Fall Series Sponsors
The host sites and major sponsors are Cherokee Park United Church, St. Paul, Church of All Nations, Columbia Heights, Unity Church-Unitarian, St. Paul, St. Paul Interfaith Network, Healing Minnesota Stories
The following are co-sponsoring the series or individual host sites:
- Arlington Hills Lutheran Church
- Central Baptist Church
- Clouds in Water Zen Center
- Community of Christ, Apple Valley
- Dayton Avenue Presbyterian Church
- Faith Mennonite Church, Minneapolis
- Gloria Dei Lutheran Church
- GAP (Guadalupe Alternative Program) School
- House of Hope Presbyterian Church
- IRG (Islamic Resource Group)
- Islamic Center of Minnesota
- Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning
- Macalester Plymouth United Church Peacemakers
- Mary’s Pence: Funding Women-Changing Lives
- Mendota Mdewakanton Community
- Minneapolis Area Interfaith Initiative
- Minnesota Council of Churches
- Neighborhood House
- Pilgrim Lutheran Church
- Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area
- Prince of Peace, Burnsville
- Rotary Club of Bloomington
- St. Matthew’s Catholic Church
- St. Paul Area Council of Churches and its Department of Indian Work
- Saint Paul Area Synod/ELCA
- St. Paul- Reformation Lutheran Church
- Spirit of Life Presbyterian Church, Apple Valley
- The Local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of St. Paul
- The St. Paul Foundation
- Twin Cities Friends Meeting
- Wesley Center for Spirituality, Service and Social Justice, Hamline University
- West Side Citizen’s Organization
- Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality (a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet)
- World Without Genocide
This event has grown out of the work of Healing Minnesota Stories (HMS), an initiative of SPIN to create understanding and healing between Native American and non-Native people. HMS, SPIN’s Fall Series, and participating congregations/faith communities are cooperating to conduct this series of events.
Watch for more details or go to: http://www.spinterfaith.org
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