Denouncing of Doctrine of Discovery Warrants a New Look at Tinker's
Condensed by Native Village
In May, 2012 "The Doctrine of Discovery" was the theme for the United Nations
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues." Issued by Pope Alexander I in 1493, the
Doctrine of Discovery
was used to dominate
and colonize Indigenous Peoples, including American Indians and Alaska Natives.
At the UN Forum, The World Council of Churches Executive Committee
denounced the "Doctrine of Discovery."
An Executive Committee statement called the doctrine
"fundamentally opposed to the gospel of Jesus." They stressed the need for churches to be sensitive to this issue.
The Episcopal Church also responded by issuing a Pastoral Letter on the
Doctrine of Discovery and Indigenous Peoples. Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
presented this Pastorial letter at the United Nations Forum on Indigenous
One part of her Pastoral Letter states:
"The Doctrine of Discovery work of this Church is focused on
education, dismantling the structures and policies based on that
ancient evil, support for the United Nations Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples and challenging governments around the
world to support self-determination for indigenous peoples."
book which enlightens readers to the consequences of these doctrines is
"Missionary Conquest" written by George E. Tinker.
George Tinker is an American Indian theologian. His mother was Lutheran; his father
was a traditionalist Osage. Tinker earned a doctorate in Biblical
studies from the Graduate Theological Union in 1983. A tribal citizen of the
Osage Nation, Tinker is on the board of directors of the American Indian
Movement of Colorado.
"Missionary Conquest" is a harsh examination of missionary work in the United
States. Tinker argues that missionaries were complicit in the violence against American Indians.
This violence has resulted in prolonged genocide of this
country’s first peoples.
book presents a unique perspective because of his integration of Christian and
Osage spiritualities. He offers examples of cross-cultural miscommunication
that occurred between Christian missionaries and "converted" American Indians.
In one case, a group of American Indians went through the
formality of being baptized. The American Indians
thought it was simply a ceremonial gesture pledging friendship with the French.
The missionaries didn't realize the Indians
weren't aware they were accepting Jesus Christ.
Within the "Missionary Conquest," Tinker examines four sincere missionaries
and the unintentional havoc they wreaked among Native Peoples.
Franciscan whose mission work took him to California.
Tinker writes that Serra's legacy included forced labor of converted
Indians to support the missions, and creating an environment
equivalent to a concentration camp. Overwhelming evidence suggests
that native peoples resisted Spanish intrusion from the beginning.
Tinker also states that Serra's intentions in evangelizing were
honest and genuine.
Puritan missionary who ministered to Massachusetts Indians.
Pierre-Jean De Smet,
Jesuit missioner to the Indians of the Midwest;
Tinker shows that, in arranging Lakota participation for the Ft.
Laramie treaties of 1851 and 1868, De Smet was in alliance with the
fur companies, military, and federal government, and
functioned as a agent for the pacification of native peoples.
Episcopal Bishop Henry
Ministered in Minnesota and the Dakotas.
Tinker writes: "The story of Henry Benjamin Whipple and Indian
people is an example of cultural genocide with clear political and
religious aspects. Again, we are dealing with a man of the highest
moral character who had only the best of intentions."
Tinker's examination does not stay in history. He fast forwards to the present.
He discusses how today’s churches are still run by non-Indians who control the
He argues that
reservation churches, or those ministering to
American Indians in urban settings, are typically underfunded.
Indian communities and the underfunded churches become co-dependent
which does a gross
disservice to American Indians.
"Missionary Conquest" was first released, many resisted it because its
harshness. Now, perhaps with churches willing to admit their wrongs, there will be real healings and revelations
for believers in
the Christian Gospel.
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