The National Congress of American Indians
TITLE: REQUESTING THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH AND THE POPE TO DENUNCIATE THE DOCTRINE OF DISCOVERY
WHEREAS, we, the members of the National Congress of American Indians of the United States, invoking the divine blessing of the Creator upon our efforts and purposes, in order to preserve for ourselves and our descendants the inherent sovereign rights of our Indian nations, rights secured under Indian treaties and agreements with the United States, and all other rights and benefits to which we are entitled under the laws and Constitution of the United States and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to enlighten the public toward a better understanding of the Indian people, to preserve Indian cultural values, and otherwise promote the health, safety and welfare of the Indian people, do hereby establish and submit the following resolution; and
WHEREAS, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was established in 1944 and is the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments; and
WHEREAS, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) affirms that all doctrines, policies, and practices based on or advocating superiority of peoples or individuals on the basis of national origin or racial, religious, ethnic or cultural differences are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust; and
WHEREAS, the UNDRIP and the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples both acknowledge that Indigenous Peoples have suffered from historic injustices as a result of, inter alia, their colonization and dispossession of their lands, territories and resources, thus preventing them from exercising, in particular, their right to development in accordance with their own needs and interests; and
WHEREAS, the reality and establishment and operation of boarding schools as a central element of a policy and mission to eliminate Indigenous Peoples across the United States, which can best be described as “genocide” resulting in multiple, interconnected individual as well as collective impacts and trauma; and
WHEREAS, the destruction of the political, economic, social, cultural, and spiritual institutions of American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN), and the seizure of lands, territories, and resources, and intended disruption of Indigenous families, nations, and whole communities have all had devastating and continuing, persistent, deleterious, intergenerational impacts upon our nations and peoples; and NCAI 2022 Mid Year Conference Resolution ANC-22-040
WHEREAS, the policies instituted by government were compounded by their reliance upon and invested role of the Roman Catholic, Anglican, United, Methodist, Presbyterian, and other religious institutions, and their partnership, subsidy, or other federal nexus with the United States; and
WHEREAS, the UNDRIP challenges the validity of the Christian Doctrine of Discovery, which for centuries served as a political platform and legal rationale for seizure of our lands, territories, and resources as well as dehumanizing Indigenous Peoples, and provided for the justification for the establishment of federal Indian boarding schools throughout North America to purportedly “civilize” Indigenous Peoples; and
WHEREAS, His Holiness Pope Francis is scheduled to visit North America in the coming month and given this important opportunity.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) calls upon His Holiness Pope Francis to include a visit to American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) territory and to issue an apology to survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of citizens of the Tribal Nations across the Americas at the hands of the Catholic Church-run residential schools; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCAI calls upon His Holiness Pope Francis to acknowledge and atone for the historic injustices done with complicity along with other foreign economic and political forces and to explicitly denounce and condemn the Doctrine of Discovery as a basis for the violations and abuses of the individual and collective human rights of the Indigenous Peoples of North America; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCAI urges the Roman Catholic Church work in consultation and collaboration with Indigenous Peoples across North America, to eliminate the Doctrine of Discovery and other Church policies that are aimed at the subjugation of Indigenous Peoples, and to educate others about the Church’s role in colonization to ensure an accurate portrayal of this devastating history; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCAI urges the Roman Catholic Church work in collaboration with the Spiritual Leaders of our diverse peoples to develop and teach clergy, staff, and others who work within our communities about respect for and recognition of Indigenous spirituality in its own right as well as to own and take responsibility for the legacy of Boarding schools in order to create understanding and to mitigate future conflicts and prevent spiritual violence; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Roman Catholic Church agree to release all their records related to boarding schools, and swiftly repatriate all human remains and all cultural items, including all traditional clothing, obtained during the operation of Indian boarding schools in the United States so the unknown and untold stories of Indigenous Children can be discovered and AI/AN communities and families can begin the work to heal from this devastating era of genocide against Indigenous Peoples; and NCAI 2022 Mid Year Conference Resolution ANC-22-040
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Church express its support for a Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act that would establish a Commission to study the impacts of Indian boarding schools in the United States; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that this resolution shall be the policy of NCAI until it is withdrawn or modified by subsequent resolution.
CERTIFICATION The foregoing resolution was adopted by the General Assembly at the Mid Year Conference of the National Congress of American Indians, held in Anchorage, Alaska from June 12-16, 2022 with a quorum present.
Fawn Sharp, President
ATTEST: Stephen Roe Lewis, Recording Secretary.
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