The Doctrine of Discovery: Restorative Justice for Native American Communities

In 1493, the Vatican issued a decree “The Doctrine of Discovery.” The edict declared the right and duty of the Spanish king to control and administer vast lands in the new world, the freedom to occupy the land, to possess its rich resources, and convert its population. The Spanish had the advantage due to its alliance with the papacy.

The Doctrine of Discovery, dispossesses native peoples, is rooted in notions of superiority and supremacy, and defines others outside the realm of European blood as inferior humans. These beliefs shape modern theology and racist structures within the United States. The United States government accepted into law the genocide and removal of Native Americans by US Chief Justice John Marshall, and the basis for Andrew Jackson’s displacement of Cherokee Indians in Georgia so whites could occupy the land.

The Council for American Indian Ministry (CAIM) is the voice for American Indian people in the UCC. CAIM provides Christian ministry and witness to American Indians and to the wider church. Below are educational resources for local churches in support of justice for our sisters and brothers within the Native American and Indian

Native American and Indian Ministry Resources

  1.  Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne. An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2014).
  2. Cerrotti, Dennis Lyle, Hidden Genocide, Hidden People. (Wellesley, MA: Sea Venture Press, 2014).
  3. Villanueva, Edgar, Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance. (Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2018).
  4. Charles, Mark and Soong-Chan Rah, Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing Dehumanizing Legacy of The Doctrine of Discovery. (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2019).
  5. Newcomb, Steven T., Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery. (Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2008).
  6. Katz, William Loren, Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage. (New York, NY: Atheneum Books, 2012).
  7. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West: Dee Brown, Hampton

Native American and Indian Ministry Resources

Racial Justice Ministries’ mission is to disrupt and dismantle racism.  Racism harms and oppresses people of color, limits equal access, and denies God’s human family their civil and human rights. It has no place in our world. It cannot be tolerated in worship spaces, preached from pulpits, or supported by the government. We affirm God’s creation. All people bear God’s image and likeness. And God desires all people be treated with dignity and respect. Racial justice means celebrating humanity’s rich cultures and diverse ethnic backgrounds, traditions, and expressions of faith. Racial justice invites Christians to actively, boldly, and without reservation commit to dismantling racism. racism harms and oppresses people of color, limits equal access, and denies God’s human family their civil and human rights.

God loves the world.

John 3:16