Columbus Day and the Doctrine of Discovery

Our nation celebrates Columbus Day on Monday October 12. This holiday may bring conflicted experiences and emotions for different Americans. For many, it serves as a painful reminder of the brutal European settlement and conquest of the Americas.

It can also be a time of learning and understanding,” said Sarah Eagle Heart, the Episcopal Church’s officer for Native American and Indigenous Ministries. “Columbus Day could instead be a time to turn away from those things done ‘on behalf’ of Native Americans so that we all might come to live in justice and peace with all people.”

Eagle Heart pointed out that many people in the Episcopal Church are unaware that for hundreds of years the church joined with the political structures of the Western Hemisphere to legally justify:
• the theft of Native lands
• the murder of Native men, women, and children |
• the denial of basic human rights through subjugation and enforced relocation
• the denial of self-determination through destruction of Native American economic resources, cultures, and religions
• involuntary assimilation and attempted extermination of Native identity

Eagle Heart went on to explain that these aggressive policies and practices have come to be called the Doctrine of Discovery. At the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in 2009, Resolution D035 was passed, which repudiates and renounces the Doctrine of Discovery. The resolution is informed by our baptismal vows “to seek and serve Christ in all persons” and “to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being” (Book of Common Prayer, pp. 293-294).

A Prayer for Healing and Hope

O Great Spirit, God of all people and every tribe, through whom all people are related;
Call us to the kinship of all your people.
Grant us vision to see through the lens of our Baptismal Covenant,
the brokenness of the past;
Help us to listen to one another,
in order to heal the wounds of the present;
And give us courage, patience, and wisdom to work together for healing and hope with all of your people,
now and in the future. 

Mend the hoop of our hearts and let us live in justice and peace
through Jesus Christ,
the One who comes to all people
that we might live in dignity. Amen.

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