Honoring and Celebrating Genocide

Cultural genocide is a concept expressed by many Native Americans to describe the deliberate destruction of American Indian languages, religions, ways of dress and housing, and interpersonal relations by the invading European powers and by the United States. Cultural genocide has led to the deaths of many American Indians either through deliberate murder or as the intended or unintended consequences of the deliberate destruction of Indian cultures. One of the classic cases of cultural genocide can be seen in California.

In 1758 Father Junípero Serra led a group of Franciscan friars north from Baja California into present-day California to establish a series of 21 missions, starting with San Diego de Alcalá in the south. The group was accompanied by a column of Spanish soldiers under the leadership of Captain Gaspar de Portolá. Robert Jackson and Edward Castillo, in their book Indians, Franciscans, and Spanish Colonization: The Impact of the Mission System on California Indians, report:  “The Franciscans attempted to restructure the native societies they encountered to further Spanish colonial-policy objectives.”  They also write:  “One of the primary objectives of the Franciscan-directed mission program in Alta California was the transformation of the culture and world view of the Indian converts congregated in the missions.”

Christianity, for these missionaries, meant not just accepting a new religion, but it also required a totally new way of living. The sites for the missions were selected on the basis of their suitability for agriculture and ranching as well as the availability of building materials. Indian people were expected to give up their traditional economic systems and to work as slaves in European-style agriculture and ranching.

Indian people did not come joyously or freely to live and work at the new missions. In his book Where the Lightning Strikes: The Lives of American Indian Sacred Places, Peter Nabokov writes:  “Soldiers snatched Indian families from outlying hamlets to convert them, change their social habits and turn them into an American peasantry.”  In other words, recruitment was very similar to a slave raid. The Indian response to the missions was to flee, either in small groups or in large groups.

In his book From the Heart: Voices of the American Indian, Lee Miller notes:  “Spain continued to operate under the European assumption that non-Christian nations were base and immoral, and the church was obligated to effect conversion.”  Furthermore, the Spanish, according to anthropologist Edward Castillo (1978a: 99):  “were steeped in a legacy of religious intolerance and conformity featuring a messianic fanaticism accentuating both Spanish culture in general and Catholicism in particular.”

The Franciscans sought to set up a utopian Christian community among the Indians. Malcolm Margolin, in his book The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco-Monterey Bay Area, writes that the Indians:  “would be weaned away from their life of nakedness, lewdness, and idolatry. They would, under the gentle guidance of the Franciscan fathers, learn to pray properly, eat with spoons, wear clothes, and they would master farming, weaving, blacksmithing, cattle raising, masonry, and other civilized arts.”

For this utopian Christian community, the Indians were to live at the mission. Unmarried males and females were confined to separate quarters to prevent any sexual relationships. The Indians were told who they could marry and what kind of clothing they were to wear. For most Indians the mission communities were death camps. Writing in the Handbook of North American Indians Sherburne F. Cook and Cesare Marino note:  “the physical confinement and the restriction of social as well as sexual intercourse was completely contrary to native custom and acted as a powerful source of irritation.”

Father Junípero Serra, who is revered by many of today’s Catholics, is described by Malcolm Margolin as being “driven by inner torments and a quest for personal martyrdom.” He lashed and burned his flesh before his congregations. Anthropologist Eve Darian-Smith, in her book New Capitalists: Law, Politics, and Identity Surrounding Casino Gaming on Native American Land, describes him this way:  “He was a man of extreme conviction in his commitment to convert California Indians to Catholicism and make them productive citizens of the Spanish colonial state.”

The Franciscans asked the Indians who came to see them to be baptized, even if they did not understand the meaning of this European ceremony. Once baptized, they could be held at the missions against their will. Soldiers were stationed at the missions to capture those who tried to escape. Escape attempts were severely punished by the Franciscans.

The Franciscan missions were slave plantations, requiring the Indian people to work for the Spanish under cruel conditions. Most of the Indians died in the new mission environment because of brutality, malnutrition, and illness. One early visitor to the missions remarked about the Indians that “I have never seen one laugh.”

In 1948, the United Nations formally defined genocide and classified it as a crime against humanity. Many of the actions of the Franciscans under Serra can be considered acts of genocide under the U.N. definition.

Today, many Native Americans, particularly those who have a California Indian heritage, consider Serra to have been a brutal oppressor whose actions killed many thousands and helped to destroy ancient cultural heritages. While we don’t know for sure if Serra personally killed anyone, his actions led to death, destruction, pain, suffering, slavery, and poverty.

The Catholic Church appears to honor and celebrate the brutality and cultural genocide promoted by the Franciscan priest: he will be declared a Saint by Pope Francis in September of 2015. Some Catholics, such as Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, applaud the creation of this new saint.

Christian Doctrine and Dehumanization

( – promoted by navajo)

The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has released a report which looks at the roots of the Christian domination over indigenous peoples. Forum member Gonnella Frichner, an attorney and member of the Onondaga Nation, indicated:

The first thing indigenous peoples share is the experience of having been invaded by those who treated us without compassion because they considered us less than human.

The central theme of this Christian domination has been the Discovery Doctrine.

http://www.streetprophets.com/…

Background:

Christian nations have assumed that they had a right to govern the indigenous nations they encountered. This right stemmed from the legal and religious Doctrine of Discovery which declares that Christian nations have a right, if not an obligation, to govern all non-Christian nations. Once an indigenous nation had been read the Christian history of the world, even though it might be read to them in a language they did not understand, then they were obligated to be ruled by the superior Christian nation.

The Catholic Pope in 1452 laid the foundation for the Doctrine of Discovery by issuing the papal bull dum diversas which instructed the Portuguese monarchy

“to invade, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens, pagans, and other enemies of Christ, to put them into perpetual slavery, and to take away all their possessions and property.”

In 1455, the Catholic Pope issued a papal bull, Romanus Pontifex, which sanctified the seizure of non-Christian lands and encouraged the slavery of natives.

A papal bull is a special kind of patent or charter issued by a pope. It is called a “bull” because of the seal (bulla) which was appended to the end of it and served to authenticate the document.

In 1500, the Spanish began using The Requirement, a document which stated that God has declared that the Pope rules all people, regardless of their law, sect, or belief. The Spanish explorers were to read the document to all non-Christian people they encountered and ask them to come forward of their own free will to convert to Catholicism or

“with the help of God we shall use force against you, declaring war upon you from all sides and with all possible means, and we shall bind you to the yoke of the Church and Their Highnesses; we shall enslave your persons, wives, and sons, sell you or dispose of you as the King sees fit; we shall seize your possessions and harm you as much as we can as disobedient and resisting vassals.”

The requirement was drawn up by Palacios Rubios, Spain’s master jurist, and provides the legal basis for the Spanish conquest of the Americas. All Spanish expeditions were required to carry a copy of the document.

The idea of a “just war” is based upon the word of Saint Augustine. Under this concept, a just war was one that was waged to right an injustice or wrong by another nation. One of these wrongs, according to the Christian view, was not being Christian. Thus, if an Indian nation were to fail to let missionaries live and preach among them, then they were committing a “wrong” which would have to be set right through a “just war.”

In 1529, Pope Clement VI wrote to King Charles of Spain:

“We trust that, as long as you are on earth, you will compel and with all zeal cause the barbarian nations to come to the knowledge of God, the maker and founder of all things, not only by edicts of admonitions, but also by force and arms, if needful, in order that their souls may partake of the heavenly kingdom”

The Discovery Doctrine as U.S. Law:

When the United States came into existence in the late 18th century, it simply followed the precedent of the English. Since the English, as a Christian nation adhering to the Doctrine of Discovery, had assumed that it had a right to rule over Indian nations, the United States simply assumed that it had acquired this same right with independence. There was no question in the minds of the founders of the new country that they had a legal and moral right to govern the Indian nations within “their” territory and, in fact, to assume that Indian territory was “their” territory.

In 1823, in Johnson and Graham’s Lessee versus McIntosh the Supreme Court found that the Discovery Doctrine gave sovereignty to England and then to the United States. Indian tribes, under this Doctrine, have a right of occupancy to the land. Christian nations, such as England and the United States, have superior rights over the inferior culture and inferior religion of the Indians. According to the Court:

“The tribes of Indians inhabiting this country were fierce savages, whose occupation was war, and whose subsistence was drawn chiefly from the forest. To leave them in possession of their country, was to leave the country a wilderness.”

Indian nations, according to the Supreme Court, have been compensated for their lands by having Christianity and civilization bestowed upon them.    

Steven Newcomb, Director of the Indigenous Law Institute, writes of the legal doctrine expressed in McIntosh:

“Based on this bizarre theory, our very existence as Indians is now assumed to be subordinate to, ruled by, and possessed as property by, the political and legal successor of the first Christian ‘discoverers,’ namely, the United States.”

The Discovery Doctrine is the legal foundation for American Indian law in the United States.

In 1954, the U.S. government, in the case of Tee Hit Ton, argued before the Supreme Court that under international law Christian nations can acquire lands occupied by heathens and infidels. The Tee Hit Ton, a Tlingit clan, were seeking to recover damages from timber taken by the United States from Indian-occupied lands. In their response the United States attorneys not only cite Johnson v McIntosh, but also the Papal bulls of the 15th century and the Old Testament from the Bible.

The Supreme Court once again affirmed the Discovery Doctrine as the foundation for the supremacy of the United States government over Indian nations. The court denied compensation and asserted:

“No case in this Court has ever held that taking of Indian title or use by Congress required compensation.”

In its finding, the Court viewed the Indians as nomads who have not developed the land:

“The Tee-Hit-Ton were in a hunting and fishing stage of civilization, with shelters fitted to their environment, and claims to rights to use identified territory for these activities as well as the gathering of wild products of the earth.”

More recently (in 2005), United States Supreme Court in City of Sherrill v Oneida Indian Nation of New York decided against the Oneida. In the decision, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited the Discovery Doctrine:

More recently (in 2005), United States Supreme Court in City of Sherrill v Oneida Indian Nation of New York decided against the Oneida. In the decision, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited the Discovery Doctrine:

“Under the ‘doctrine of discovery,’ fee title to the lands occupied by the Indians when the colonists arrived became vested in the sovereign-first the discovering European nation and later the original States and the United States.”

The United Nations:

The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues report looked at the Discovery Doctrine primarily in the United States. They feel that this should be the first step in a broader consideration of the Discovery Doctrine which has resulted in the dispossession and impoverishment of indigenous peoples and unlimited resource extraction from their lands. The Forum is looking at the Discovery Doctrine within the scope of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Kuriakose Bharanikulangara, the observer for the Holy See, responded to the report by saying that the Papal Bulls had paved the way for European expansion. He insisted that the Church had upheld the rights of indigenous peoples to their ancestral lands, regardless of whether the inhabitants were Christian or not.