September 19, 2018, Adrian, Mich. – The Adrian Dominican Sisters will celebrate Indigenous People’s Day on Monday, October 8, 2018, with a special 10:30 a.m. Mass incorporating some aspects of Native American spirituality, such as smudging and drumming. Sisters who have some Native American blood or who have at one time ministered with Native Americans will be recognized.
Sister Susan Gardner, OP, Director of the Native American Apostolate for the Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan, will offer a presentation at 1:30 p.m., “Effects of the Doctrine of Discovery Today and the Boarding School Era.” Sister Susan will also bring staff members of the parish where she ministers, St. Kateri Tekakwitha in Suttons Bay, Michigan.
The Mass and presentation are free and open to the public. If you plan to attend either, please contact Sister Kathleen Nolan, OP, at 517-266-3403 to help in the planning of the event.
In celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the Adrian Dominican Sisters will join 55 cities and five states that celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day rather than Columbus Day. Five cities in Michigan celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Alpena, Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Traverse City, and Ypsilanti.
Sister Kathleen, Director of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, said Indigenous Peoples’ Day honors those who were already in the Americas when Christopher Columbus first came to the Western Hemisphere. The Spanish Conquistadores who followed Columbus brought great suffering to the native peoples of the Americas, she noted.
In a September 18 presentation to Adrian Dominican Sisters at the Motherhouse Campus, Sister Kathleen further explained the rationale for celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day rather than Columbus Day.
Columbus Day began in 1869 as a celebration of the people of Italian-American heritage and ultimately, in 1972, became a public holiday celebrated on the second Monday of October. In 1992, however, the 500th anniversary of the date that Columbus arrived in the Western Hemisphere (most likely the Bahamas) people began to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead, Sister Kathleeen explained.
“What we celebrate as Americans reveals the character of our country,” she said. “It’s time to set the record straight. Long before 1492, millions of people were living in thriving societies with complex governments and cultures across the entire American continent.” Sister Kathleen showed a nine-minute video, “Seven Reasons Why Columbus Did Not Discover America,” outlining the civilizations living in the Americas and the other mariners who, centuries earlier, had landed in the Americas.
“Columbus Day represents the violent history of the colonization of the Western Hemisphere,” Sister Kathleen said. “Indigenous peoples have suffered tremendously from attempt after attempt and policy after policy to eradicate native cultures and way of life.” She added that it is “more fitting” to acknowledge and recognize the indigenous peoples “who were here first and persevered and continue to share so much of their knowledge, culture, and understanding of our relationship to Earth and land.”
Feature photo at top: Members of the Dishshii' Bikoh' Apache Group from Cibecue, Arizona demonstrate the Apache Crown Dance at Grand Canyon National Park in November of 2010 as part of Native American Heritage Month. (CC BY 2.0)
January 9, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – The Doctrine of Discovery, a series of 15th-century papal bulls that gave European Christian explorers the right to subdue native, non-Christian people, still has an impact on the rights of indigenous peoples in the Americas, particularly in the area of land rights.
A group of about 50 Adrian Dominican Sisters heard more about this sobering situation on January 5 when they viewed The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code. The presentation was hosted by the Laudare Mission Group, a group of Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates who are part of the Chicago-based Dominican Midwest Mission Chapter.
Sister Marilee Ewing, OP, a member of the Laudare Mission Group, welcomed the audience, noting that the presentation was part of Mission Group and Chapter’s efforts to educate the Sisters and Associates on the Doctrine of Discovery. The ultimate goal is to reaffirm the 2014 Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) plea that Pope Francis rescind the bulls “to repudiate the period of Christian history that used religion to justify political and personal violence against indigenous nations and peoples.”
Directed by Sheldon Wolfchild and co-produced by author Steven T. Newcomb, the production explores the origins of the Doctrine of Discovery and its implications, even today, through Supreme Court rulings that deal with land ownership.
The Doctrine of Discovery originated in a time when non-Christians were seen as enemies of Christianity. The papal bulls charged European settlers into the Americas and Africa with converting the native peoples. A 1452 directive by King Alfonso permitted the settlers to subdue the native people of Africa who would not convert, and to “reduce them to slavery and take away their property,” according to the production.
In U.S. law, the Doctrine of Discovery was used as a precedent to keep Native Americans from claiming land that was taken from them. Chief Justice John Marshall, in the 1823 case Johnson v. McIntosh, ruled that colonists who claimed to have discovered tribal land had title to that land. As recently as 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court used the Doctrine of Discovery. In City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York, the court allowed the City of Sherrill to sell what had been tribal land, claiming that the tribe did not have sovereignty over the land.
“This showing tonight was the first step in educating our Congregation about the Doctrine of Discovery,” said Sister Anele Heiges, OP, also a member of Laudare Mission Group. Sister Anele led a question and answer and discussion session after the presentation.
Sister Marilee noted that the issue of the Doctrine of Domination – and efforts to rescind it – is directly related to the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ 2016 General Chapter Enactment on relationships and diversity.
Feature photo: Sister Marilee Ewing, OP, welcomes Sisters and friends to the Weber Center Auditorium to view The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code.