Messiah UMC to Host “Doctrine of Discovery: Understanding Native Historic Trauma” Event; This Day in History: Landmark Supreme Court Case on Tribal Sovereignty

Messiah United Methodist Church (UMC) is hosting a screenings of The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code, with a post-film discussion with co-Producer Sheldon Wolfchild of the Lower Sioux Indian Community. This event is free and open to the public. It is being held in collaboration with Wolfchild and his 38 Plus 2 Productions, Healing Minnesota Stories, and the UMC’s Native American Ministries Action Team.  It is part of the United Methodist Church’s ongoing work towards acts of repentance with Native American peoples.

Please come:

The Doctrine of Discovery refers to a series of 15th and 16th Century papal edicts that provided the legal and religious justification for explorers to claim “New World” lands on behalf of European monarchs. The edicts justified forcibly converting or enslaving the indigenous peoples who lived here. The Doctrine of Discovery’s logic equated Christianity with civilization and indigenous peoples with savagery and barbarism. It set the stage for future genocidal acts, which included broken treaties and boarding schools.

As heirs to this Christian legacy, the United Methodist Church repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery in 2012. It reads in part:

Therefore be it resolved, all levels of The United Methodist Church is called to  condemn the Doctrine of Discovery as a legal document and basis for the seizing of native lands and abuses of human rights of Indigenous Peoples; and

Be it further resolved, that the United Methodist Church will work toward eliminating the Doctrine of Discovery as a means to subjugate Indigenous peoples of property and land.

The United Methodist Church has further committed to specific acts of repentance. The Rev. Dr. Stephen J. Sidorak, Jr., General Secretary of the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concern for the United Methodists, says the following on the Council of Bishop’s website:

“The People Called (United) Methodist” are being summoned to substantive dialogue, even “holy conferencing,” about a tragic history that resulted in what was described by George E. Tinker as the “cultural genocide” of Native Americans and indigenous peoples throughout the oikoumene, the whole inhabited earth. In short, we are being called to confession. It is incumbent upon us to struggle spiritually with the ecclesiological implications attendant to this Act of Repentance and to provide ample and compelling evidence of demonstrable denominational contrition for our collective responsibility.

This Day in History: Williams vs. Lee

On this day in history, Jan. 12, 1959, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision bolstering tribal court sovereignty against the state.

Here’s the background from Wikipedia:

Hugh Lee operated an Indian trading post on the Navajo Reservation, selling goods on credit to tribal members. One of his customers was tribal member Paul Williams and his wife Lorena. When Williams failed to make payments on his bill, Lee sued in the Superior Court of Apache County, Arizona. In state court, Lee ultimately won approval to sell Willams’ sheep to pay his debts. Williams argued the state court shouldn’t have jurisdiction on the reservation and the case eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Writing for a unanimous majority, Justice Hugo Black wrote that allowing the exercise of state jurisdiction would undermine tribal sovereignty and that only Congress had the authority to do so. …

The case was also the first of a series of cases that limited Arizona’s authority within the Navajo reservation. The case is considered a landmark case involving tribal sovereignty.


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