At the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) General Assembly in 2012, delegates voted to repudiate the doctrine that Europeans used as legal justification for conquest and colonization of the Americas. The resolution encourages Unitarian Universalists to identify traces of the Doctrine of Discovery that linger in our movement, in our communities, and in our lives, and work to eliminate them.
Now the UUA is offering seed grants of $500 to $1,000 to Unitarian Universalist congregations, groups, and organizations for projects that teach about, repudiate, and mitigate the current-day effects of the Doctrine of Discovery. Successful proposals will describe plans for education, reflection, and action opportunities; outreach to partners in indigenous and/or interfaith communities; and have broad and/or long-range impact. It is hoped that providing seed funds will inspire Unitarian Universalists to dig deeply into this work. Indeed, the queries coming in regarding the grants indicate that this is already happening!
To apply, learn more about the General Assembly resolution and the Doctrine of Discovery. Read the application requirements. Then, submit a letter of application by April 5, 2013. Grant recipients will be notified by May 1, 2013. For more information, contact Gail Forsyth-Vail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today is Day 25 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to learn more about truth, reconciliation, and how the power of forgiveness can lead us to better stand on the side of love. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
Esther Attean and Denise Altvater receive Courageous Love Awards
Today is a new day for the people of Maine. This very morning in the city of Bangor, the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is swearing in five newly selected commissioners.
In May 2011, Gov. Paul LaPage and the chiefs of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, Penobscot Indian Nation, the Houtlon Band of Maliseet Indians, and the Aroostook Band of Mickmacs signed an agreement to initiate a process of truth and reconciliation with regard to the child welfare practices in Maine where native children are 20 times more likely to be removed from their home and tribal community and placed in foster care. Maine is the first state in the country to initiate a process of truth and reconciliation with our indigenous communities.
Esther Attean and Denise Altvater, Passamaquoddy tribal members and founding staff of the TRC, were recently honored with Courageous Love Awards at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Speaker Breakfast in Winthrop, Maine. Denise and Esther have worked countless hours to bring forward this historic and unique partnership. With numerous speaking engagements behind them and 3 years of work in front of them, they are changing lives and bringing the power of healing and transformation to people throughout Maine.
Esther and Denise have the rare ability to speak truth to the actions of Columbus, the colonization of the Americas, the Doctrine of Discovery, and the forced assimilation of native people, while owning their power and asking a room full of white folks to examine their privilege. And the truth telling doesn’t stop there. With undaunted courage, they bravely share their personal stories of generational trauma and imagine a new tomorrow for their people and the people of Maine.
Each time I hear Esther and Denise, I walk away empowered to enter more deeply into an honest openhearted engagement with my role as a colonizer and my life as the colonizers’ legacy.
Their work invites us to ask the question: how might the process of Truth and Reconciliation be implemented in a way that furthers the most pressing social justice issues of our time? How might it play a role in your own communities? Click here to learn more about Truth & Reconciliation.
Rev. Carie Johnsen
Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Augusta, Maine
PS: This morning, you can also watch a livestream of the Wabanaki Truth & Reconciliation Commission seating ceremony via their Facebook page.
“Native American communities have for many years asked their allies to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. Doing so means more than just changing what our calendars call the second Monday in October, however. It means educating ourselves about the very real issues facing the indigenous peoples with whom our faith calls us to be in right relationship.”
- Rev. Dr. Michael Tino
As Rev. Tino implores, let us take this Indigenous Peoples Day to educate ourselves about the serious issues faced by the indigenous community. One of issues at the forefront this fall is the pending reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
The Senate version of this legislation makes important jurisdictional changes that would help protect native victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Between 2005 and 2009, U.S. Attorneys declined to prosecute 52% of violent crimes committed in Indian country, 67% of which were sexual abuse cases. The Senate version of VAWA would return concurrent tribal authority to investigate and prosecute domestic violence cases and give first responders–tribal police and tribal courts–the tools they need to stop violence in its early stages. You can read more detail about what these provisions entail here.
The Indian Law Resource Center created this heart-wrenching video to show why the tribal provisions in the VAWA legislation are so important for native communities:
Want to get involved? Click here to learn more about how you can speak out for a VAWA that includes protections for native victims of domestic & sexual abuse.
As an Italian-American, I dread the second week in October. This is, of course, when my cultural heritage is celebrated with parades and festivals in the name of Christopher Columbus, whose arrival on this continent heralded an era of European conquest. Each year, I am forced to confront my ancestors’ complicity in the European colonization of the rest of the world—and the dehumanization, genocide, and enslavement that accompanied it. Each year, I hear the language that proclaims that Columbus “discovered” America, and I struggle, knowing where this language comes from.
The language of “discovery” comes directly from a European doctrine, developed by popes and embraced by monarchs. It claimed that when Christian Europeans landed on a shore inhabited by non-Christians, they assumed all rights to the land and its people as if they had discovered it. The Doctrine of Discovery, as it has come to be known, is still the legal basis for the modern-day treatment of indigenous peoples by the U.S. government. Federal control of the lands of Native American nations, immigration policies with respect to the indigenous peoples on the U.S.-Mexico border, and Native Hawai’ian peoples’ rights to religious freedom are all decided by remnants of a centuries-old doctrine that is based on the belief that non-Christian people lack souls.
This June at our annual General Assembly, delegates from Unitarian Universalist congregations passed a resolution repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery. We were asked to do this by a coalition of indigenous peoples with whom we were working on issues of immigration justice. We answered their call to accountability with action.
Now, we must continue to educate ourselves, our congregations, and our communities about the impact of the Doctrine and its persistence in our laws and policies. Honoring Indigenous People’s Day this October 8th provides an opportunity for us to do just that. Click here to learn more about how you can take action against the Doctrine of Discovery.
In repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery, our delegates decreed that it was incompatible with a theology that affirms the inherent worth and dignity of all people. We declared that right relationship between indigenous peoples and those whose ancestors came from other continents is only possible if we sit down together as equals. We affirmed that our call to stand on the side of love means that we must work to dismantle systems built on a foundation of intolerance and division.
This means pledging ourselves to working to repeal and repudiate this doctrine wherever it shows itself in our society today. While that includes asking the U.S. government to fully implement the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it doesn’t end there. Right now, there are probably policies in your local communities that mean that landowners are not in right relationship with the native peoples whose ancestral lands they live on. Coalitions of indigenous peoples in your state or region are likely signing up allied organizations in their struggles to gain equality, recognition, and respect. In the coming weeks and months, there will be legislation and advocacy efforts with the potential either to perpetuate the Doctrine of Discovery or to heal wounds inflicted by it.
Native American communities have for many years asked their allies to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. Doing so means more than just changing what our calendars call the second Monday in October, however. It means educating ourselves about the very real issues facing the indigenous peoples with whom our faith calls us to be in right relationship.
This Indigenous Peoples Day, I invite you to seek to understand how the Doctrine of Discovery is still at work in your community and in your country. I invite you to seek partnerships with native peoples and to practice accountability in answering their calls to action. I invite you to unite in support of policies and laws that honor those whom centuries of discriminatory policy have disrespected.
I also invite you to help me to honor my cultural heritage—with all of its complicated and messy parts—by helping me to decolonize our faith. Together, we can reject those parts of our faith that are rooted in the superiority of one group of people and embrace a radically inclusive, all-encompassing love. I invite you to practice love with me this Indigenous Peoples Day.
Rev. Dr. Michael Tino
Minister, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Westchester
Board of Trustees, Unitarian Universalist Association
PS: For more information on the history & significance of the resolution repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery, watch this interview that I did with our partner organization Tonatierra:
The message above went out on Thursday, September 13, 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.
This post was written by Rev. Jonipher Kūpono Kwong, minister of the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu.
This Justice General Assembly was by far the most energizing (since I began attending in 2008 anyway). As an Activist Minister, it warmed my heart to witness thousands of UUs from all over the country (and some from Canada and elsewhere) put their faith into action by speaking out against the atrocities going on in Tent City. The songs we used were also powerful, especially those by Emma’s Revolution. Kudos to the organizers who put their blood, sweat and tears into making this a success!
Carla Allison, the Board President of the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu, and I knew we didn’t want to let much time go by before we did something about our experience in Phoenix, so we planned a forum for Sunday, July 8, 2012 after both our services. We called it “Wake Up to Justice!” because we wanted to mobilize our congregation to action. It wasn’t just another debrief–40 people attended. This was indeed an opportunity for members of our congregation to get plugged in to what our movement is doing, making us realize that these justice issues are interconnected. What happens in Arizona does not stay in Arizona, but has an impact in Hawaii as well.
We began the forum by educating our Beloved Community on the harms that have been inflicted on indigenous peoples through the Doctrine of Discovery by using the language used in the General Assembly resolution. We were elated when Rev. Michael Tino helped us introduce the words “indigenous peoples of the Hawaiian Kingdom,” acknowledging that those living in Hawai’i are a part of the Unitarian Universalist Association and that our local partners here are suffering as well. Kumu Glen Kila of the Kanenuiakea community blessed Carla and I with an oli (chant) and a lei. We made a commitment to continue the conversation and to be in relationship with each other, asking the question, “How can we support you?”
We then showed videos and photos from our Tent City witness, which were very moving. Carla gave a moving testimony of her experiences at the workshop and even on the plane ride home reading The Death of Josseline. Many in the congregation became interested in reading this book and we ended the forum with suggestions on how we can move forward. We handed out concrete suggestions such as calling the Attorney General’s office to ask them to hold Sheriff Arpaio accountable. Someone else suggested we hold a public witness event here in Hawaii and ask our partners to join us. We said we would educate our children on Hawaiian spirituality issues and ask Kumu Glen to come back and worship with us again. The ideas flowed, and our energies were oriented toward justice. We hope more people from our congregation can come next year to experience what we’ve experienced. Mahalo for leading us to a greater awareness of the injustices that are going on. The road to justice continues.
For more information on how to bring the Doctrine of Discovery home, click here. For more resources from Justice General Assembly, click here.