Grandmothers To Pope: Drop Edict

Over 500 years ago, Indigenous peoples of the western hemisphere first experienced the arrival of the Europeans (Spaniards and Italians … Continued

Over 500 years ago, Indigenous peoples of the western hemisphere first experienced the arrival of the Europeans (Spaniards and Italians under Spanish flag). When these strange looking men stepped off their ship and set foot on Arawak Territory (initially an island later named Hispanola), the first thing they did was plant the flag of Spain and declare the land their own. This action was under the authorization of certain papal bulls issued by the Pope . The pope authorized the conversion of the “discovered” heathens to Christianity or to “overthrow” and “subjugate” them.

On July 9, 2008, the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers (the “Council”) arrived in Rome, Italy to address the Vatican papal bull. We were turned away.

The Council did not come to plant a “conquering” flag, but to lay a flag of peace and conciliation on the ground of the Vatican Square in front of the door to St. Peter’s Basilica. On the flag was laid a sacred staff and sacred prayer feathers, including a written statement from the Council, along with special items to be gifted to the Pope Benedict XVI. The grandmothers then lit smudging incense (sage, cedar, copal), gathered in a circle, and planted the prayer.

The grandmothers had tickets for the public audience of Pope Benedict XVI on July 9. Shortly after before their arrival, however, it was announced that the Pope’s public audiences for the entire month of July were canceled. The Grandmothers smiled and decided that as women of prayer they would go to the Vatican anyway, and deliver a prepared statement and make prayers on that holy ground. Their trip to the Vatican is part of their spiritual journey on a spiritual path, for the sake of Indigenous nations, all peoples, and all living things.

There were many tourists at St. Peter’s Square; most only glanced as they passed. Then a man suddenly stopped and watched for a moment. Perhaps the aroma of the burning sage and copal drew attention to the group’s activities. Suddenly, it was as though a reaction was triggered in him, and he yelled, “What you’re doing is anti-Catholic. Get out of here. I’m calling the police!” The Grandmothers looked at him and continued their prayer.

Soon thereafter, the Vatican police arrived, angrily shaking their fists in the air. They declared, “This is the Vatican State and you cannot do that here. You must leave, get out.” The grandmothers continued praying.

They traveled to Italy to meet and simply pray in peace. The grandmothers read a prepared statement with a timeline, detailing the historical efforts by Indigenous Nations and Peoples calling for the revocation of the papal bulls. The Grandmothers called the names of the individuals and organizations who supported the Grandmothers’ journey, channeling their thoughts into our prayers, strengthening this effort. As a finale, our youth ambassador, 9 year-old Davian Joell Stand-Gilpin, great-great-great-great granddaughter of Chief Dull Knife of the Lakota Nation, performed a traditional dance in celebration of the event.

The Grandmothers are certain that it is now time to open a sincere spiritual dialogue between the Catholic church and indigenous peoples to arrive at a meeting of minds and discuss the revocation of three antiquated and divisive papal bulls and edicts, Dum Diversas, June 18, 1952, Romanus Pontifex, January 8, 1455, and Inter Caetera, May 4, 1493.

Mona Polacca is a Hopi/Havasupai /Tewa elder working on her Ph.D at at Arizona State University. Mona has worked on issues of Native American alcoholism. domestic violence and mental health for the elderly native peoples. She is member of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers.

About

  • candide

    You indigenous people ought to be grateful to the Catholics who conquered you. Most of your ancestors survived. Had you been conquered by Protestants you would have been exterminated — as happened in North America.

  • ChuckB

    Yesterday I was reading the criteria for declaring the commission of genocide. Applying this criteria to the conquest, i.e., invasion, of the Americas, the church promoted and encouraged genocide: convert or overthrow and subjugate them, which in practice was overthrow and subjugate them even if they convert. If they didn’t convert, then they were killed, and millions were killed even if they did convert. An example of the irrational racism inflicted on the inhabitants of the Americas (a title for the region imposed on it by butchers)follows: “Brother Vicente proceeded to instruct Atahualpa (the Inca ruler) in Western religion. The catechism lesson ended abruptly when Atahualpa hurled a bible on the ground (the priest had the gall to shove a book written in Spanish in the Inca’s face and expect him to read it–I am sure, as with all monarchs in Europe, it was probably offensive to touch the person of the ruler). At this, the offended Spaniards (kind of like offended rapists and robbers) — who the night before had been whipped into a religious frenzy by Pizarro — attacked and slaughtered the unarmed natives.” The Spanish were responsible for killing millions in the lands they invaded. The best guess of the number of deaths that occured in the 100 years after the invasion is around 40 million. Given the crude technology and the slow transportation of the era, this rivals or exceeds the scope of the slaughters of the 20th century. A defense would be that most of the deaths were caused by disease and the exigencies of the resulting turmoil of the conquest, but the same can be said for the figure of 23 million or so that died in the turmoil of the revolution, civil war and purges in the Soviet Union, and no one excuses the culpability of Lenin and Stalin in this. A great amount of the gold that gilds the church’s edifices and is found in its chalices and crosses was likely mined at the sacrifice of the lives of millions of indigenous peoples. Regardless of all of this, the Pope an’t even grant thes women an audience? He must be burdened with guilt. The church carries a lot of baggage, and it should be pleading for forgiveness from its victims.

  • O God

    next thing you know they will be demanding reparations.IMO they need to give it up and stop wasting their time. There are much more important things to deal with in this world…..

  • Paganplace

    Unbelievable, Candide.These folks try to raise an ongoing grievances with the Pope and you say, ‘Look at the Protestants,’ and go be grateful conquered people. Don’t show your face around here.’ Feh.

  • Mary Cunningham

    Can’t believe I’m agreeing with Candide. But he is right here. The first indigenous people to make contact with the Europeans–Catholic or Protestant– perished. In North America these were the peoples of the coastal regions, in Central the peoples of the Caribbean (Caribbe today is a beer, not a tribe) That same thing would happen in Australia centuries later should give you a clue as to the killing agent.Germs! Germ warfare. They died from measles, smallpox, and at least in the Americas a type of gastroenteritis. .(The Europeans, in contrast, flourished like mad.) Europeans had lived close to their domesticated livestock for a millenia at least. They were immune to the diseases found in, say, pigs, cattle, chickens. No such immunity in the Amerindians.The question, of course, is why the ancestors of today’s Mexicans survived. And they did survive, make no mistake, the Mexican census classifies the ethnic origin of its 110 million population today as “mestizo (Amerindian-Spanish) 60%, Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian 30%, white 9%, other 1% “, thats 90% of the population! To give some idea of how unusual this was contrast what happened in Mexico to what happened in Brazil where the native population died in such numbers that the authorities had to import African slaves. Brazil: “ethnic origins:white 53.7%, mulatto (mixed white and black) 38.5%, black 6.2%, other (includes Japanese, Arab, Amerindian) 0.9%” There were/are almost no Africans in Mex. and Central America. The natives survived. Why?There was a history book of the Spanish Empire published a few years ago, can’t remember the name, which said that the Spanish colonisers intermarried with native Aztec women almost immediately. Was this how the immunities to germ passed through to the indigenous population?

  • ChuckB

    O God (pretty blasphemous), why do we still sympathize with Israel when it uses the guilt trip over the holocaust to justify its theft of Arab lands? Maybe Georgia should just get over Russia taking South Ossetia.

  • paul c

    I just don’t get what it is that the “Grandmothers” wanted from the Pope. The article says that they wanted to lay a flag of peace and conciliation before him. Do they feel they are at war with the Catholic church that such a gesture is warranted? I just don’t see how that is true. So what did they really want? Publicity ? for what end? A public apology for percieved wrongs? Simply a chance to meet the Pope? Monetary reparations from the Catholic Church? I just don’t buy that they feel genuinely abused by 500 year old edicts that are clearly no longer being applied. So what is the motivation.. why now?

  • Mary Fleming

    Paul C:Probably trying to earn some reparations from the Pope. And they’ve been badly advised. Ms Palocca assumed what happened to the Amerindians in North America was duplicated all over the Western Hemisphere.All I can say is she’s never been to Mexico! Or Spain for that matter. Who does she think the Mexicans look like? Amerindians or Spanish? Sometimes I wonder about the American elite. How can they charge “genocide” against the Church and the Spanish colonisers without noting that the Mexicans in their midst look, well, Amerindian?No, it’s just another Catholic-bashing piece from the friendly folk at No Faith. One Joe Eszterhas followed by an article designed to elicit charges of genocide by the Catholic settlers. All in a day’s work for these people.Anyway, all the best Paul C.Mary C.

  • Rita Martinez

    Candide, the Spanish, who were Catholics, invaded the Hispaniola (Now known as Dominican Republic) and guess what the indigenous people who lived here were exterminated completely, if I’m not mistaken there are still Native americans and native american tribes protected by the government in the US.

  • Anonymous

    Ecumenical…Germs will as happily travel on a Catholic chicken as they will on a Protestant pig. They’ll take a ride on a Confucian rat, or on a Christian wild goose.It’s all the same to the germ. They’re just along for the ride.

  • oberle

    Wow, what a crock from you commenters. Papal bulls have been rescinded before. Maybe it is time to do this one now? Reparations? Did you read that these grandmothers were asking for some? No? Then why did you make that assumption? Anti-Catholic bias in the original article? No, just the truth. Unless the truth is by nature anti-Catholic. Get over yourselves. And then do some reading in the history section of your local library.

  • Paganplace

    “Paul c:”I just don’t get what it is that the “Grandmothers” wanted from the Pope. The article says that they wanted to lay a flag of peace and conciliation before him. Do they feel they are at war with the Catholic church that such a gesture is warranted? I just don’t see how that is true. So what did they really want? Publicity ? for what end? A public apology for percieved wrongs?”The article neglected to mention what in particular they were, but it did say that they were seeking the repeal of certain Papal edicts which instruct the conversion and conquest of indigenous peoples by whatever means, and in the process denigrate their cultures and demean their religions. In a sense, they were asking the Vatican to un-declare war on *them.*

  • Janet Baker

    My family is native American, and I have often thought of these issues. I have come to have enormous gratitude toward the Catholic faith for the generous spirit with which they undertook the conversion and education of the native peoples. To know and love Christ is the greatest gift a people could receive.

  • Paganplace

    *sputter.* OK, Janet. Whatever you say.

  • Athena

    Actually, they died more from smallpox than from measles. And germs carry quite well on infected blankets traded with the Indians for food. Blankets – the original WMDs.What the Grandmothers wanted was an apology and rescinding of the Papal Bull that forced them to be converted to Christianity and made into slaves. To which I say, “go grannies!”

  • DZ

    Mary Cunningham:Your posts are so dishonest and morally despicable that they boggle the mind. Your Catholic brethren murdered millions of indigenous people. They didn’t all die from disease. Millions were murdered in the name of the church. Don’t you dare try to revise history and try to evade accountability for the genocide that people just like you perpetrated. Don’t you dare. Just another holocause denier. Right up there with David Irving. Despicable.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t find any fault in the Grandmothers’ requst; namely, the rescision of a 500 year old Papal Bull instructing the enslavement of indigenous peoples. But I do find fault in the way they went about it.Having tickets to a public audience with the Pope is no more than having a guided tour of the Vatican. Thousands of people have been known to attend these “audiences.” I suspect the Pope would not be warmly received if he arrived unnounced on tribal lands sprinkling Holy Water, passing out rosaries, and praying to Jesus all the while claiming that he came in “peace.”If the Grandmothers are even remotely sincere, then they should expend their efforts trying to get a private appointment with the Pope rather than creating a public spectacle.

  • Garak

    The Mothers need a louder voice, someone who talks loudly, carries a big financial stick, and has a beef with the Catholic Church. Like Hugo Chavez?

  • burntnorton

    Wow, Mary, you’re appallingly ignorant, aren’t you? Do you have any idea what the Spanish and Portuguese did to the indigenous populations in South, Central, and, yes, North America? Slavery, murder, rape (hence all their “mixed” descendants), forced conversions, systematic destruction of culture . . . By your standards, slavery wasn’t that bad. After all, millions of descendants of African slaves survive in our midst and many, if not most, of them are of mixed descent. Of course, the original mixing was largely the result of rape, but they survived, right?

  • homesower

    To ChuckB:Adding to your thoughts -One of the reasons the protestants killed fewer Indians was that the diseases had already swept through North America before serious colonization had begun. Its also the case that the advanced civilizations of Central and South America could support a much larger population than the loosely organized tribes in North America. On the other hand some areas had already undergone major depopulations without the help of Europeans. The Mayans had several million people intensively cultivating the Yucatan in an area that can only support a few hundred thousand today. That civilization imploded from within.I don’t think its fair to blame the tremendous loss of life on the conquerors. Let them take the blame for the people they directly killed. In some cases that was quite a few, but compared to the entire population it had little effect. What they did is not different than what the Incas, and Aztecs (and Mongols, and Arabs and Babylonians and so on) had done before, but it was unique in having this series of plagues coincident to the conquests. Its as if the black plague and the Mongol hordes had struck at the same time. As to the Papal Bulls I certainly think they were not in the spirit of Christ and should be revoked, even though that would be a pointless step to take.

  • Paul

    These ladies are woefully uninformed. Please take note of the following document:Paul III Pope. To all faithful Christians to whom this writing may come, health in Christ our Lord and the apostolic benediction.THE SUBLIME GOD so loved the human race that He created man in such wise that he might participate, not only in the good that other creatures enjoy, but endowed him with capacity to attain to the inaccessible and invisible Supreme Good and behold it face to face; and since man, according to the testimony of the sacred scriptures, has been created to enjoy eternal life and happiness, which none may obtain save through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, it is necessary that he should possess the nature and faculties enabling him to receive that faith; and that whoever is thus endowed should be capable of receiving that same faith. Nor is it credible that any one should possess so little understanding as to desire the faith and yet be destitute of the most necessary faculty to enable him to receive it. Hence Christ, who is the Truth itself, that has never failed and can never fail, said to the preachers of the faith whom He chose for that office ‘Go ye and teach all nations.’ He said all, without exception, for all are capable of receiving the doctrines of the faith.The enemy of the human race, who opposes all good deeds in order to bring men to destruction, beholding and envying this, invented a means never before heard of, by which he might hinder the preaching of God’s word of Salvation to the people: he inspired his satellites who, to please him, have not hesitated to publish abroad that the Indians of the West and the South, and other people of whom We have recent knowledge should be treated as dumb brutes created for our service, pretending that they are incapable of receiving the Catholic Faith.We, who, though unworthy, exercise on earth the power of our Lord and seek with all our might to bring those sheep of His flock who are outside into the fold committed to our charge, consider, however, that the Indians are truly men and that they are not only capable of understanding the Catholic Faith but, according to our information, they desire exceedingly to receive it. Desiring to provide ample remedy for these evils, We define and declare by these Our letters, or by any translation thereof signed by any notary public and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical dignitary, to which the same credit shall be given as to the originals, that, notwithstanding whatever may have been or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect.By virtue of Our apostolic authority We define and declare by these present letters, or by any translation thereof signed by any notary public and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical dignitary, which shall thus command the same obedience as the originals, that the said Indians and other peoples should be converted to the faith of Jesus Christ by preaching the word of God and by the example of good and holy living.

  • homesower

    To ChuckB:Adding to your thoughts -One of the reasons the protestants killed fewer Indians was that the diseases had already swept through North America before serious colonization had begun. Its also the case that the advanced civilizations of Central and South America could support a much larger population than the loosely organized tribes in North America. On the other hand some areas had already undergone major depopulations without the help of Europeans. The Mayans had several million people intensively cultivating the Yucatan in an area that can only support a few hundred thousand today. That civilization imploded from within.I don’t think its fair to blame the tremendous loss of life on the conquerors. Let them take the blame for the people they directly killed. In some cases that was quite a few, but compared to the entire population it had little effect. What they did is not different than what the Incas, and Aztecs (and Mongols, and Arabs and Babylonians and so on) had done before, but it was unique in having this series of plagues coincident to the conquests. Its as if the black plague and the Mongol hordes had struck at the same time. As to the Papal Bulls I certainly think they were not in the spirit of Christ and should be revoked, even though that would be a pointless step to take.

  • spiderman2

    The Vatican, the seat of Satan, will burn in time. God will punish it for all the crimes it did thru-out its history.A wolf in sheep’s clothing.

  • Anonymous

    During 2000-MAR, the Vatican issued an apology for past sins committed by church members. It is titled “Memory and reconciliation: The church and faults of the past.” It was approved by Pope John Paul II, and was written by Cardinal Ratzinger, John Paul II’s successor as pope.

  • Advocate GK JOSE

    our prayers are with the venerable indegenious grand mothers. it is not only the indegenious peoples of the western hemisphere who suffered under the spanish or portuguse colonialism. the indegenious St. thomas church of india was suppressed by the jesuit missionaries in the fifteen hundreds and brought under the suremecy of the latin church. this situation continues even in the twenty first century. the promised universality of catholic faith is poorer for the suppression of the indegenious traditions. George K Jose

  • Anonymous

    Advocate George K Jose:The greatest threat to Christianity in India is the rising power and activity of militant fascist Hindu political groups who are persecuting Christians in several parts of India. They would reconvert all non-Hindus back to Hinduism if they got half a chance, and they have been attempting using violence and intimidation in some parts of India.GOI should try to look into those issues seriously and protect religious freedom for all Indians, including the freedom to change religions, aas per the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.India is the world’s largest democracy and a rising power. So it should never allow circumstances to prevail in India that would make justifiable accusations by the international community of violation of religious freedom in India.

  • Anonymous

    When the late Pope John Paul II went around the world apologizing for the failings of the Catholic Church in the past (link to Vatican document provided in an earlier post), did The International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, not feel included? If not, why not?Why was this issue not raised then, if the Council needed a specific apology addressed to them?European colonialists did not conquer lands on behalf of the Vatican, neither did the Vatican establish a political rule in any of the European colonies. The respective secular heads of state/monarchs ruled the colonies for their own benefit, until such time as the European settlers succeeded in becoming independent of their European rulers.What sort of Vatican edict could possibly keep The International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers bound in anyway?

  • Joe T

    There are no “indigenous” peoples of the Western Hemisphere. As someone else observed the history of humanity is the history of the migration of the human race across the planet. The Maya, Inca, Aztecs and others brutally stole “their” land from others. They in their turn took the fall. No races’ hands are clean. We all came from somewhere else.This is more PC nonsense. But, can I get in on the next trip to Rome? Especially if someone else is paying for it. La Dolce Vita!

  • spiderman2

    The Catholic church owned vast amount of lands from conquered lands. It then leases these lands to the natives.The Vatican, the seat of Satan, will burn in time. God will punish it for all the crimes it did thru-out its history.A wolf in sheep’s clothing.

  • norman ravitch

    History has many examples of brutality and genocide, to be sure. Christianity has been particularly bad here, learning how to kill from the Old Testament. Islam has learned the same thing from the same place.But to be fair, the same Spain which had its Inquisition’s tortures and burnings also decided that the America natives had souls which could be saved. The Spanish could be brutal but took with some seriousness the theological conclusion of some Spanish religious scholars, like Las Casas, that the natives could be redeemed from their pagan depravity. Give credit where credit is due.I am not aware of any theologians in Nazi Germany who publicly said that killing Jews for racial reasons was wrong.

  • Mary Ann Cinelli

    This is beautifully written and expressed- well done!

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