Office of Government Relations

Native American Month and Advocacy today

November 1, 2011
Office of Government Relations

When I give workshops, I stress that advocacy is a very broad term. It is often more than contacting our elected officials. Advocating for justice can mean educating yourself and others about an issue; it can mean changing your mind and the minds of others; it can mean changing your actions and encouraging change in the world around you. That's what this week's message from Sarah Eagle Heart, the Episcopal Church's Native American Missioner is about – educating ourselves and our churches and changing the ways that we live our lives to work towards reconciliation. – Mary G.

In 2009, The Episcopal Church became the first church to Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery at the 76th General Convention, making a public commitment to all Indigenous Peoples to review policies, and programs. With the intent to expose the historical reality and impact of the Doctrine of Discovery, and respond to its presence in the church's contemporary policies, programs, and structures. This work calls upon all Episcopalians to seek a greater understanding of Indigenous Peoples and support those Peoples in their ongoing efforts for their inherent fundamental human rights, treaty rights and inherent sovereignty.

The doctrine is a painful example of where the church has been in error, and amiss, and how these errors contribute to contemporary social, and economic issues. The repudiation of the doctrine has given the church direction, and she is now seeking reform in response to colonialism and its aftermath; actions which fundamentally oppose the Gospel of Jesus Christ and our understanding of the inherent right to respect the dignity of every human being.

The video "Exposing the Doctrine of Discovery: A Call to Healing and Hope" and the accompanying Leader's Guide works with an awareness that resolutions and repudiation may accomplish little unless they are accompanied by and attached to comprehensive, broad plans to connect goals for systemic change with recognizable images, concepts, and moves. That is, it invites the Church into a process which takes into account the actual range of current understandings (or lack thereof) of the injustices of the Church's participation in the settlement of this nation and the on-going implications of those events. The over-all, four part project "Exposing the Doctrine of Discovery" attempts to work developmentally and through faith formation by preparing individuals during Advent– spiritually, historically, psychologically – to participate in communal reflection, worship, and action during Lent, next summer and in the future.


Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori urges the church to learn more about this work and search for healing and action: "…this is also a matter for healing in communities and persons of European immigrant descent. Colonists, settlers, and homesteaders benefited enormously from the availability of "free" land, and their descendants continue to benefit to this day. That land was taken by force or subterfuge from peoples who had dwelt on it from time immemorial – it was their "promised land." The nations from which the settlers came, and the new nations which resulted in the Americas, sought to impose another culture and way of life on the peoples they encountered. Attempting to remake the land and peoples they found "in their own image" was a profound act of idolatry.

Repentance and amendment of life are the answer, and God asks us all – this Church, our partners and neighbors, and the nations which were founded under the Doctrine of Discovery – to the challenging work of reconciliation.

The abundant life we know in Jesus Christ is made possible through sacrifice – through repairing what is broken, and finding holiness and healing in the midst of that challenging work. That work is often costly, but it is the only road to abundant life."

See a video on the lasting impact of the Doctrine of Discovery.

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