Pope shows support for Indigenous; more needed

Pope Francis’ ongoing pilgrimage through Mexico will include a symbolically significant stop at Chiapas, home of a large indigenous population that has suffered poverty ever since the arrival of the colonialists.

The Romero Institute believes this visit to San Cristobal de las Casas, where Bishop Samuel Ruiz once defied the Vatican in his support of the local members of indigenous tribes is yet another gesture of support for Native peoples in the Americas. But it is not enough.

Only a revocation of the Doctrine of Discovery will truly address the Church’s complicity in the centuries of injustices perpetrated against the Indigenous peoples of the Americas.

After landing in Mexico City today, Francis is scheduled to meet with the Bishops of Mexico before continuing his journey through the country. As the first Latin American Pope, the people of Mexico have expressed excitement about the visit.

A major stop on tour will focus on venturing through the region of Chiapas. Chiapas has the largest indigenous population of Mexico and is also plagued by poverty. On Monday, Feb. 15 he is slated to give the Holy Mass with the indigenous community of Chiapas at the Municipal Sports (Homily by the Holy Father).

In the past Pope Francis has shown interest in protecting the rights and civility of the impoverished native peoples and indigenous tribes of countries. Last year in Bolivia, he delivered a speech apologizing for the role of the Church in injustice toward native peoples.

“I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offenses of the church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America,” he said.

Chiapas is home to the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, one of the foremost defenders of indigenous rights, who has been in declared war with the Mexican state since 1994. They have been fighting for the rights of those oppressed by globalist economic systems both in and beyond Mexico. They also assert the rights of Indigenous communities to live in traditional manners without the interference of government and industry bent on upending that way of life.

The Catholic Church played a vital role in the mediation between the Zapatistas and the Mexican government in 1994. Bishop Samuel Ruiz fought for traditional indigenous languages to be used in the liturgy and for married deacons to minister for their people because they had more of an understanding for the married lay workers.

He was also a full-throated advocate for indigenous rights, in Chiapas and abroad.

“Samuel Ruiz worked to build a fairer, more equal, more dignified Mexico without discrimination, where indigenous communities have a voice and where their rights are respected by all,” said former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, when Ruiz died in 2011.

But Ruiz paid for his advocacy, as conservative members of the of the Church took issue with his approach to indigenous rights.

The Vatican asked Ruiz to resign in 1994 and when he eventually retired in 1999 the Vatican suspended the ordinance of deacons.

However, in 2014 under Pope Francis’ authority, the Church lifted the ban — another sign Pope Francis is becoming aware of the injustices towards the Indigenous Peoples in the Americas and the complicity of the Church.

In, fact, many of these injustices can be traced back to the enforcement of the Doctrine of Discovery which allowed for the seizing of Indigenous Peoples and their lands in favor of colonial and postcolonial governments.

The Romero Institute, while grateful for Francis’ acknowledgement of the Church’s past sins, asserts such acknowledgements are ultimately insufficient. Only a full revocation of the Doctrine of Discovery by the Church will suffice.

The Doctrine still affects laws and policies surrounding land use throughout the Americas and gives an inappropriate moral blessing to the exploitative and colonial actions of governments and industry.

Please help the Romero Institute revoke the Doctrine of Discovery. It is a moral imperative for our age. You can sign the petition here.  

Please donate here.


Genocide of Natives Hurts Environment

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal claims the introduction of European diseases to Indigenous populations in the 17th century not only exacted an enormous human toll, but also significantly damaged the ecology of the American continent.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal claims the introduction of European diseases to Indigenous populations in the 17th century not only exacted an enormous human toll, but also significantly damaged the ecology of the American continent.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal claims the introduction of European diseases to Indigenous populations in the 17th century not only exacted an enormous human toll, but also significantly damaged the ecology of the American continent.

Harvard Anthropology professor Matt Leibmann and his team used new advances in laser technology to survey the 17th century population of 18 villages in Jemez, New Mexico, based on the number and size of buildings that the inhabitants had constructed. They found that the Native population of this area fell from 6,500 to 900 in the 60 years after prolonged contact with Franciscan missionaries between 1620 and 1680, a reduction of 87%.

The social and cultural impact of this devastation is obvious, but the team also noticed significant ecological changes that followed the drop in population. “Forest fires also take off during this period”, explained Liebmann. “When people are living in these villages, they need timber for their roofs, and for heating and cooking. In addition, they’re clearing the land for farming, so trees weren’t growing there when these archaeological sites were inhabited. But as people died off, the forests started re-growing and we start to see more forest fires.”

Leibmann and his team concluded that the Indigenous populations in Jemez had reduced forest fires by regularly harvesting wood for heat, cooking and buildings, as well as clearing some land for agriculture. The removal of dry, dead wood and introduction of farmland gaps in the forest had a significant impact in the overall health of the local ecology. The terrible epidemic in this area led to a direct increase in forest fires, as fewer people were left to care for the forest.

The protective relationship between Indigenous peoples and the land is still very evident today in the form of environmental activism from groups like Idle No More. A movement started in 2012 by First Nations women in Canada to champion Indigenous sovereignty and a more integrative approach to the environment, Idle No More has taken off with millions of supporters across the US and Canada, and a huge following on social media. They have pulled off teach ins, hunger strikes and direct action to halt resource exploitation and industrial damage to the environment, like the now defunct Shell Arctic drilling project and Keystone XL pipeline.

The conflict between Indigenous peoples and the resource extraction industry continues unabated in places like the Amazon rainforest. Known as the “lungs” of the planet, this South American rainforest removes more carbon from the atmosphere than any other ecosystem, but remains threatened by illegal logging, oil drilling, and slash-and-burn deforestation for industrial agriculture.

Communities such as the Achuar in eastern Ecuador have fought for years to keep oil drilling out of their territory, even under the threat of violence from private corporate armies that seek to intimidate and dispossess them of their land. The Achuar have successfully protected their corner of Ecuador, one of the most biodiverse places on earth, partially through activism. The Pachamama alliance, a non-profit founded by Achuar leaders and their allies to protect the rainforest and the Achuar way of life, educates millions of people each year in the importance of protecting the environment and Indigenous sovereignty, and directly challenges the incursion of oil companies through legal and political action.

Matt Leibmann and his team’s discovery that Native ways of life protected the forest and their disappearance hurt ecosystems is is significant validation of contemporary Indigenous attempts to defend the earth from extraction industries, which if left unchecked will render our planet uninhabitable.

It is also important to note that the struggle of these modern activists against greed is not a new fight. Indigenous people have been fighting for control of their lands and sacred way of life since the 15th century, when Pope Alexander VI initiated a series of Papal bulls now known as the “Doctrine of Discovery” that authorized any European power to attack, conquer and enslave any non-Christian community in the new world and exploit their natural resources. The colonial abuse explicitly advocated in the Doctrine of Discovery led directly to the depopulation and environmental problems described by Matt Leibmann in his study.

This cruel and archaic doctrine has served as a weapon for those who seek to steal the land from its rightful owners for hundreds of years, and is STILL being cited as a reason to dispossess Indigenous peoples from Arizona to Brazil. The Romero Institute calls upon our allies to sign the petition urging Pope Francis to rescind the Doctrine of Discovery, and support the proven and sacred connection between Indigenous communities and their ancestral homes.

UN Condemns Doctrine of Discovery

The Doctrine of Discovery and its severe, lasting consequences for Indigenous Peoples across the world continues to spark debate at the highest levels of international diplomacy.

The most recent development came on January 14th, when the UN Council Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) called upon the Holy See to engage in meaningful dialogue with designated representatives of Indigenous peoples to address their concerns regarding the Inter Caetara of 1493 and its related papal bulls, known collectively as the “Doctrine of Discovery”.

The active efforts of the Apache-Ndee-Nnee Working Group, which submitted a comprehensive report detailing the ongoing effects of the Doctrine, were instrumental in bringing about UN acknowledgement.

The paper produced the working group argues millions of Indigenous Peoples lost their lives to due to the atrocities of colonization and domination by the European powers, actions which were “initiated, condoned and promoted” by the Catholic Church via the Doctrine of Discovery. The Working Group also condemns the role of missionaries and Church leaders in authorizing and encouraging enslavement, forced conversion and cultural genocide against Indigenous peoples.

The working group further asserts the damage caused by the Doctrine is not restricted to antiquity, and that the Papal decree, “continues to deeply and directly influence politics and policies, land rights, external identity determination, and judicial processes and decisions therein, regarding Indigenous Peoples.”

This report dovetails with the Romero Institute’s attempts to convince Pope Francis to revoke the Doctrine of Discovery, as it makes a strong case that the Doctrine of Discovery is a continuing injustice, and one that deserves to be urgently addressed. The fact the United Nations has endorsed the position of the Apache Working Group and the Romero Institute lend validation to the movement to have the Pope revoke the Doctrine.

The key to the UN CERD decree on this issue is the body’s demands not only for the Holy See to hold a “meaningful” and “high level” meeting with Indigenous representatives, but also that the Catholic Church subsequently provide evidence of “concrete follow-up measures” taken to address concerns raised in this meeting. The Romero Institute maintains one such follow-up measure should be a complete revocation of the racist doctrines that continue to affect policy in the United States, Canada and other regions.

While we recognize, the UN does not have governing authority over the Vatican, such an authoritative command by the foremost institution dedicated to international diplomacy is unquestionably a significant step toward making the Church address the atrocities committed in God’s name as a direct result of 15th century Papal encyclicals.

The Apache-Ndee-Nnee Working Group now joins the Episcopal Church, the Indigenous Law Institute, The Romero Institute and countless others in our shared quest for Pope Francis to officially rescind the Doctrine of Discovery and end its legacy of imperialism, white supremacy and domination. Through the collective action of many strong allies, we will see this corrupt Doctrine abolished, and justice served.

Romero Institute National press release: http://romeroinstitute.org/20150923

Romero Institute Press release in response to Laudato Si: http://romeroinstitute.org/20150619

We love Pope Francis, but he must do more


The Romero Institute commends the Holy See for recognizing the atrocities committed against Native Americans by the colonial powers with the express blessing of the Catholic Church during his address to a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress today, Sept. 24.

However, our organization finds the balance of the pope’s comments to be tepid and insufficient in terms of bringing about the type of acknowledgement of the United States’ past iniquities that is necessary to move forward toward a path of reconciliation with the Indigenous population of this nation and of this continent.

In his speech to Congress, Francis said the following:

“Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present. Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past.”

Again, the language is insufficient. ‘Not always respected’ is a clear euphemism that glosses over the gravity of crimes committed by colonial powers and the United States government — crimes that include forced labor, enslavement, massacres, repetitive breaking of treaties and official promises and acts of genocide.

Clearly this goes far beyond a mere lack of respect.

We also respectfully disagree that it is ‘difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present.’ Indeed it seems to the Romero Institute reassessing past actions according to the improved values of the present is the primary function of studying and coming to grips with human history.

However, we are encouraged by the Pope’s recent acknowledgements of the plight of the Indigenous peoples in the Americas.

Over the past months, Pope Francis has made sweeping gestures to Indigenous peoples across the world by imploring world leaders to energetically work to prevent climate change, and suggesting that Indigenous lifestyles and teachings could be useful resources in achieving this goal.

In a recent speech in Bolivia, Francis went as far as apologizing to the Natives of North and South America for the cruelties inflicted upon them by Catholic Europeans, who often claimed their actions were ordained by God.

The Romero Institute appreciated these statements for what they were; a public admission and apology for the crimes committed against Native communities, from the mouth of the highest spiritual authority in Western culture.

His message of humility and repentance has encouraged us and many others, leading us to believe that more meaningful actions towards justice and restoration lay in store.

Nevertheless, we cannot help but deplore the recent canonization Padre Junipero Serra on Wednesday, in a move that was highly criticized by Native peoples across the country. As the first Padre Presidente of the California Mission System, Serra was responsible for the enslavement, forced conversion, and deaths of tens of thousands of Californian Natives.

While this ceremony had been planned by the Vatican before Francis attained the Papacy, we still reject his statement that Serra sought to, “defend the dignity of the Native community”, and feel that his promotion to sainthood ignores the atrocities endured by the Native Californians.

For there to be forgiveness and significant steps taken to reconciliation between Indigenous peoples, the Catholic church, and National governments, there must first be an acknowledgement of the systematic cruelties inflicted against the Indigenous peoples across the world by those bodies.

In many ways, Pope Francis has done more for Indigenous rights than any other contemporary international leader by demanding action on climate change and offering some apology for the treatment of Native peoples by Europeans.

However, his recent actions have led us to question if the Pope could do more to atone for the sins of the past. One major step Francis could take towards establishing a just resolution between Indigenous peoples and the Catholic Church would be to rescind the Doctrine of Discovery, a series of Papal bulls from the fifteenth century that endorsed the enslavement or eradication of all ‘pagans’ and ‘saracens’ who did not practice the Catholic religion.

European Imperialists used this contract to justify their atrocities against Native peoples as divinely approved, and it is still cited as precedent to dispossess Native Americans in US court cases as recently as 2015.

By rescinding this document, Pope Francis could show the world that he is serious both about recognizing the evils of history, and moving towards a brighter future. We need to see Francis take action on this issue before any apology can be viewed as serious or complete.

Movement to revoke Doctrine of Discovery gains momentum


In May, Pope Francis released his encyclical Laudato Si, which among the many positive ideas it professed, contained the Catholic Church’s unprecedented expression of admiration for Indigenous peoples and for the heritage of their integrative approach to the environment.

As a parent organization to the Lakota People’s Law Project, The Romero Institute is both heartened and emboldened by the recognition by Pope Francis and the Catholic Church that the human family has much to learn from the Indigenous perspective on land, economic distributions systems and natural resources .

However, our organization remains steadfast in asserting that some of the very evils that Pope Francis criticizes in his encyclical are rooted in the history of the Catholic Church — particularly the Doctrine of Discovery, a series of Papal bulls from the fifteenth century.

These antiquated documents authorized colonial powers to massacre, enslave and occupy the homelands of countless Native peoples, the justification being that as non Christians, they were not entitled to property or freedom.

The Romero Institute is calling upon Pope Francis to officially revoke to the Doctrine of Discovery in an attempt to acknowledge the iniquities of the past while moving forward toward reconciliation.

The Doctrine has no place in the Catholic tradition of compassion and grace, nor the legal systems of dozens of countries where it is cited and used to disenfranchise Indigenous peoples across the world to this very day.

Over the past month, the national media has begun to join the dialogue over this issue as a result of Pope Francis’s present visit to the United States. The National Catholic Reporter launched a series of articles over the summer that condemned the Doctrine’s lasting impact and continued repercussions for Native Americans. On Wednesday, Counterpunch released an open letter to Pope Francis beseeching him to revoke these edicts to heal the wounds inflicted upon Native communities. This morning, Democracy Now host Amy Goodman invited Romero Institute ally and colleague Valentin Lopez on the show to speak about the Doctrine’s continued negative consequences for Native peoples. 

We are proud and delighted in the momentum that this event has generated for our cause. It is our great hope and expectation that the continually growing exposure and condemnation of the Doctrine of Discovery will persuade Pope Francis to formally disavow this disgraceful part of history, and allow restoration and renewal to begin.

To join us in our mission, please sign our petition at: romeroinstitute.org/petition

To read the National Catholic Reporter articles on the Doctrine, click the link to their website and search ‘Doctrine of Discovery’.


Here is a link to the Counterpunch article: http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/09/23/refute-the-doctrine-of-christian-discovery-an-open-letter-to-pope-francis/

Here is a link to the video and transcript of Valentin Lopez’s interview on Democracy Now, with Amy Goodman.


Catholics largely unaware of Pope Francis’ call for climate action


A recent survey found that a majority of American Catholics remain unaware that Pope Francis has called for immediate action to address the environmental and cultural problems caused by unfettered transnational corporate capitalism — not the least of which is cataclysmic changes to the environment increasingly gathered under the banner of climate change.

The survey, conducted in mid-July, did show that the percentage of Catholic adults (43 percent) aware of the encyclical was slightly larger than that of non-Catholic adults (39 percent).

The Romero Institute has been uncomfortable about the degree to which mainstream media in the United States have narrowly defined the Pope’s landmark encyclical, Laudato Sii, as solely about climate change; however, it seems the Church has not been particularly avid in spreading even that narrow message.

According to the poll, less than half of the Catholic poll respondents knew that Laudato Sii existed. Of the 40 percent of American Catholics who said they had heard of the encyclical, a meager 23 percent of them heard of it during Mass.

The Romero Institute has long known that Laudato Sii, which we consider one of the most important writings of our time, was the initial salvo in a long campaign aimed at changing the human family’s approach to its care for the environment and each other. We join Pope Francis in asserting that the excesses of unfettered free market capitalism are a corrosive force on society, but we know more needs to be done to get the message out.

Part of our mission is too help Catholics organize around Pope Francis’ exhortation around the ‘Common Care for our Home.’ In the meantime, we implore the readers of this blog to read Laudato Sii in order to receive a full picture of the multi-faceted moral argument the Pope is making regarding our obligation to the environment and each other and the factors he believes is preventing the human family from fulfilling that obligation.

Please help our cause by donating here. The Romero Institute has also launched a campaign to request the Pope revoke the Doctrine of Discovery, a series of 15th century Papal Bulls that have provided the legal and moral rationale for the wholesale siezure of indigenous lands and the ensuing destruction of their culture.

Please sign the petition here. Together we are making a difference.

Junipero Serra: Canonizing a Symbol of Injustice

Junipero Serra

Father Junipero Serra’s statue in the United States capitol should stay “until the end of time,” according to a statement made by California Governor Jerry Brown last Sunday July 19th.

Serra considered his goal of converting the Indians to be just and holy, but his crusade resulted in the enslavement, torture, and death of tens of thousands.

A dismissal of facts and an underplaying of Serra’s role in the Church’s genocidal behavior are reasons why his bronze statue has remained in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall since 1931 as one of California’s permanent delegates. The Papacy is currently in the process of canonizing Serra.

Brown said in a statement in January that “we have to understand that saints, like everybody else, are not perfect,” and regards Serra as a “very courageous man and one of the innovators and pioneers of California.”

The Romero Institute strongly disagrees with Brown’s position.

Canonizing Serra constitutes a approval of the long-lasting genocide of the Spanish Catholic missions.

While Serra may have believed his actions to be righteous, he represents an archaic worldview accepting of treating peoples as subhuman by forcefully imposing values that simultaneously resulted in torture, slave labor and conditions ending with one in three babies dying before living for one year, and around twenty percent of adults dying per year.

Glorifying this behavior as praiseworthy is an egregious insult to the families and graves of the tens of thousands of Indians buried as a direct result of California’s mission system, which Serra largely oversaw.

UC Riverside historian Steven Hackel concluded that “California’s military leaders rarely shared [Serra’s] zeal, Indians often opposed his efforts, and ultimately the missions proved to be cauldrons of disease and discontent,” in his biography Junipero Serra: California’s Founding Father.

Erecting missions in the New World wasn’t Serra’s crusade so much as the Catholic Church’s, Serra was merely a faithful servant of the Church and what he deemed to be God’s will. What approved and sought out this unbridled brutish exploration was the 1493 Papal Bull, referred to as the Doctrine of Discovery.

The Romero Institute has dedicated itself to seeing this Doctrine renounced, as it continues to be used as a moral and even legal authority for the abuse of indigenous peoples. Beginning in 1823, its citation resulted in the United States Supreme Court asserting that Native Americans “had no property rights but rather merely held a right of occupancy.”

Please sign our petition requesting Pope Francis renounce the 1493 Papal Bull, the Doctrine of Discovery: http://www.romeroinstitute.org/petition

As a nonprofit we rely on the support of those who want to see our efforts become successful, to donate please visit: http://www.romeroinstitute.org/rom-donate

Pope Apologizes for Sins Committed Against Native People of America

Pope Francis

Pope Francis apologized for the Roman Catholic Church’s complicity in the oppression of indigenous peoples during the colonial era on Thursday, during his stay in Bolivia.

The Romero Institute applauds Francis’s sentiments and is hopeful this will result in the revocation of the spark that ignited this flame of abuse–the Doctrine of Discovery.

Created centuries ago in 1493, the Doctrine still acts as the spiritual endorsement for the dehumanization and slaughter of indigenous peoples, and the justification for imperialist economic ventures. Even today it permeates western ideologies and justifies unspeakable crimes that would otherwise have no moral or legal basis.

“I say this to you with regret: Many grave sins were committed against the native people of America in the name of God,” he said to an audience at the World Meeting of Popular Movements in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

He called for a global social movement against “…an economy of exclusion and inequality,” which he calls “new colonialism.” This economic system, he says, has fostered materialism and the exploitation of the poor, while causing the destruction of our planet.

“Human beings and nature must not be at the service of money,” he said. “[the current system] has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature.”

Francis made clear he did not have the blueprints for an ideal economic-social-political system, but he did say the Gospel provides principles that can help. He stressed that the problems with the current system are apparent, and need to be reworked for the sake of humanity.

“Let us say no to an economy of exclusion and inequality, where money rules, rather than service. That economy kills. That economy excludes. That economy destroys Mother Earth,” he said.

A few days ago in Ecuador, Francis referred to indigenous peoples as the most vital stewards of the environment while also acknowledging that they are the group most hurt by climate change and the unfettered pursuit of capitalism.

Yesterday in Bolivia, he said, “I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offense of the church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America.”

Francis’s request for forgiveness requires a form of action in order to be received as genuine. In recognizing the “…many grave sins,” committed by the Catholic Church by being complicit during the colonial era, Francis surely understands that the 1493 Doctrine of Discovery caused this.

By revoking the Doctrine of Discovery, Francis would demonstrate to indigenous peoples that he truly wishes to make amends and move toward a future of cooperation necessary to save our planet.

The Romero Institute respectfully implores Pope Francis to revoke the Inter Caetera Papal Bull of May 4th, 1493, known as the Doctrine of Discovery.

Please visit our website and sign our petition to revoke the Doctrine of Discovery: http://www.romeroinstitute.org/projects/petition

Check out an article about our efforts in the National Catholic Reporter: http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/call-rescind-doctrine-discovery

Spiritual Leader Chief Arvol Looking Horse calls for healing of the earth


Two weeks ago, a United Nations Declaration was taken to the Secretary General of the UN on the third and final day of the 20th annual World Peace and Prayer Day/Honoring Sacred Sites ceremonies. The Declaration called for the establishment of an Indigenous United Nations, with the goal of protecting future generations from environmental and human destruction.

Spiritual consciousness, the Declaration says, is the highest form of politics. The Declaration’s key-points ranged from calling for the abolishment of nuclear bombs and energy to supporting the revocation of the 1493 Doctrine of Discovery.

Chief Arvol Looking Horse, the spiritual leader of Lakota, Dakota and North Nakota tribes of the Great Sioux Nation, who facilitated the 2015 World Peace and Prayer Day in Ashland, Oregon, was included in the Declaration. His vision during the event was attached as a proclamation, which emphasized a much needed concern for all life on earth.

Looking Horse asserted that global warming, due to the corruption of the earth through methods such as tar sands extraction, is having dangerous side effects which must be addressed as a global community. Tar sands extraction, like fracking and other environmentally damaging profit-driven efforts harm our ecosystems and disrupt the lives of indigenous people.

“Mother Earth is a spirit, the Source of Life, not a resource,” Looking Horse said during the event. “Today we are standing together because Mother Earth is dying and is sick and has a fever. Our work doesn’t end here. We will carry on our ways for the responsibility of our children. We are faced with great challenges, because man has gone too far, and brought us to this prayer.”

He stressed that we all belong to a global community, and that this sentiment is often lost among Republicans and Democrats in Washington DC

“The climate is changing. If only the trees, water, and rivers could speak, they’d tell us their story,” he said. “In that tree, every year is a circle. In our life, we have a cycle of life and we too are part of the growing of that tree.”

While NASA scientists have said we are at a point of no return, in regard to the environmental destruction we’ve caused, Looking Horse remains confident that faith and a belief that we can change our ways can reverse the harm already done.

Paula Horne, his wife, addressed NASA’s statement saying, “We are here to prove it different and be a ripple effect. If we could do this worldwide, we could heal the earth.”

Looking Horse is one of many spiritual leaders focusing on raising awareness about environmental issues. Pope Francis’ recently published encyclical also highlights the need for immediate action in order to halt the increasing devastation of our planet.

The encyclical reads, “…while the existing world order proves powerless to assume its responsibilities, local individuals and groups can make a real difference. They are able to instill a greater sense of responsibility, a strong sense of community, a readiness to protect others, a spirit of creativity and a deep love for the land. They are also concerned about what they will eventually leave to their children and grandchildren. These values are deeply rooted in indigenous peoples.”

The Romero Institute supports and commends both the Pope and Looking Horse for their initiatives in raising awareness about the direction of our planet.

Link to article about Looking Horse: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/30957-leader-of-sioux-nation-issues-dire-warning-to-unite-globally

Please like our facebook page to stay updated and support our work: https://www.facebook.com/romeroinstitute

The Romero Institute is an interfaith law and policy center exposing systemic injustice and implementing permanent solutions. Formerly the renowned Christic Institute, the nonprofit Romero organization employs law, investigation, research, public education and grassroots organizing in its work.

Mobilized Efforts Working to Revoke the Doctrine of Discovery

vatican picture

Numerous faith communities have been calling for the revocation of the 1493 Doctrine of Discovery since 2007, and Pope Francis’ new encyclical focusing on climate change being driven by multinational corporate capitalism is fueling the debate.

This Doctrine provided the moral rationale for the genocide that colonial European powers inflicted upon indigenous populations. It set the stage for the indigenous people to be perceived as subhuman savages, and set forth the perspective that Christian nations have a divine right to possess indigenous peoples’ land and natural resources.

Over five-hundred years later, the Doctrine continues to impact current issues facing indigenous populations, in which they’re continually marginalized. Since 1823, the Doctrine has been used in several United States court cases to invalidate indigenous land possessions, with the most recent citation in the 2005 City of Sherill, NY v. Oneida Nation case.

The United Nations, in their Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, enacted in 2007, say, “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.”

Since then, over a dozen faith communities have called for the Doctrine of Discovery to be revoked, including the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, the World Council of Churches, and the Loretto Community.

A congregation of religious women and laypeople, the Loretto community collaborated with a member of the Osage Nation to create a 2012 resolution against the Doctrine. By fall of 2013, they partnered up with twelve other Catholic groups calling the Pope to rescind the Doctrine.

Still, the papacy hasn’t acted. Last August, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents about 80 percent of US nuns, also approved a resolution against the Doctrine.

Pope Francis’s recent encyclical appropriately addresses the need to prevent further environmental degradation, and opens discussions regarding the current capitalist models where ‘the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.’ The 1493 Doctrine should be acknowledged as having provided the legal and moral footing for colonial capitalism, which is the root cause of the current economic globalism and environmental destruction we face today.

A revocation would signify to indigenous people globally that the Catholic Church truly cares about the systemic causes of climate change and the plight of the poorest of the poor, by admitting that they originally provided the moral justifications for the theft of indigenous land, and the slaughter of tens of millions.

The Romero Institute has also begun a petition calling for the revocation of the Doctrine. You can sign the petition by visiting our website: http://romeroinstitute.org/projects/petition

Please consider becoming a member of the Romero Institute and our project, Lakota People’s Law Project, so we can continue our vital work in fostering the renewal of indigenous people in South Dakota, and the rest of the United States. http://lakotalaw.org/donate-new

To learn more about faith communities mobilizing against the Doctrine, read: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/10/catholic-church-doctrine-of-discovery_n_5793840.html

The Romero Institute is an interfaith law and policy center exposing systemic injustice and implementing permanent solutions. Formerly the renowned Christic Institute, the nonprofit Romero organization employs law, investigation, research, public education and grassroots organizing in its work.