Today, the Vatican “responded to Indigenous demands and formally repudiated the ‘Doctrine of Discovery,’ the theories backed by 15th-century ‘papal bulls’ that legitimized the colonial-era seizure of Native lands and form the basis of some property laws today,” the Associated Press reported.
“A Vatican statement said the papal bulls, or decrees, ‘did not adequately reflect the equal dignity and rights of Indigenous peoples and have never been considered expressions of the Catholic faith.'”
Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 contradictions around racial equity.
Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order in 2019 committing the state to meaningful consultation with Native Nations. He followed that up by allowing Enbridge to build its Line 3 tar sands pipeline over strong tribal opposition with little or no consultation.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has touted its racial justice framework. When the agency approved permits for Enbridge Line 3, a majority of its Environmental Justice Working Group resigned, writing: “… we cannot continue to legitimize and provide cover for the MPCA’s war on black and brown people.”
Native grandmothers, water protectors, and their allies are not letting up. They have set up camp on the Capitol lawn as a sign both of their ongoing resistance to Line 3 and their long-standing commitment to uphold treaty rights.
The state has responded with fear: erecting fencing around the Capitol and sending a heavy police presence.
Part of an occasional series highlighting examples of truth telling, education, and reparations with Indigenous and African American communities
The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe holds less of its original reservation lands than any other Ojibwe tribe in Minnesota. In fact, Leech Lake suffered more land loss than most other reservations in the United States due the efforts by lumber barons to get their hands on the band’s prized timber lands.
The federal government has a trust responsibility to Native Americans. Historically, it deemed Native American “incompetent” to manage their own affairs. The government was supposed to protect Native nations and their lands from fraud and abuse. In fact, the government actively participated in undermining treaty obligations and facilitated land sell-offs to private business interests.
This year, Congress approved a bill to return some 17 square miles to the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, lands that had been “wrongly transferred” to the Chippewa National Forest, according to the Pioneer Press.
A Leech Lake tribal news release said: “The land restoration is the culmination of years of effort and will honor tribal sovereignty, allowing the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe to invest in future generations and build more housing to accommodate their community.”
This is not charity. This is justice.
This is an act to be celebrated and a history to be mourned. While 17 square miles might seem like a lot, it’s a very small measure of repair given the amount of land stolen under the federal Dawes, Nelson, Morris, and Burke Acts of the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Watching the current demise of Confederate monuments and Columbus statues, it’s time again to look at art in state Capitols and other public buildings and ask about the stories they tell.
During a recent visit to the South Dakota State Capitol in Pierre, I found the Senate Chamber’s Louisiana Purchase mural particularly jarring. The central figure is a half naked Indigenous woman. The narrative its creates is that she is both hypersexualized and uncivilized.
An angel stands behind her, wrapping her in the civilizing influence of the U.S. flag, a symbol of assimilation.
The worldview they helped create still is alive today
This blog has written often about the Doctrine of Discovery: 15th century Catholic Church edicts that provided the moral and legal justification for European monarchs and their “explorers” to seize Indigenous lands and enslave, convert, or kill Indigenous peoples in lands which would become known as the “New World.”
The Doctrine of Discovery also includes papal edicts issued decades before Columbus sailed, edicts that justified Portugal’s west African slave trade. Continue reading →
Healing Minnesota Stories is remounting its traveling art exhibit that highlights racist art in public spaces and offering alternative student art as one path forward.
The exhibit, “Challenging Public Art,” will run from May 26 to June 30 at First Unitarian Society, 900 Mt Curve Ave, Minneapolis. A reception will be held on Sunday, June 9, noon-1 p.m. Jim Bear Jacobs, Director of Racial Justice for the Minnesota Council of Churches and Healing Minnesota Stories founder, will speak on the exhibit.
Tucked away in room on the Capitol’s third floor hangs a student art exhibit with the unifying theme of “Clean Water Starts with Me.”
The theme just as well could have been: “Water is Life.”
I was particularly struck with by a piece by high school student Claudia St. Germaine (above) with lakes and pines. It creates a typical northern Minnesota scene, perhaps one of the areas where the giant Canadian corporation Enbridge is proposing to dig a large trench to bury a 36-inch pipeline carrying tar sands crude oil, the dirtiest fossil fuel in the world.
This pipeline is the kind of project that threatens our clean drinking water, something too many state officials have chosen to ignore. Continue reading →
A quick update on how other communities are dealing with controversial public art: The University of Notre Dame has announced it will cover controversial Columbus murals, according to an article in the Smithsonian Magazine. It begins:
For more than 130 years, 12 towering murals depicting Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the Americas have flanked a hallway in the University of Notre Dame’s Main Building. But late last week, the university announced that it plans to cover the murals; in a letter explaining the decision, Notre Dame’s president described the artworks as memorializing “a catastrophe” for indigenous peoples.
This is part of a national conversation about public art. St. Paul could learn from Notre Dame’s example.