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Commemoration of Chief Seattle

Commemoration of Chief Seattle

Today, we commemorate the life and work of Seattle, chief of the Duwamish Confederacy, who died on this day in 1866. This year, many synods of the ELCA are sending a memorial to the Churchwide Assembly, gathering in New Orleans in August, to repudiate the “doctrine of discovery”, explicated by Pope Alexander VI in 1493. This doctrine has been codified into US American law and disastrously used to confiscate land from Native populations.

To commemorate Chief Seattle today, read the resolution passed at the Northwest Washington Synod Assembly last month repudiating the doctrine of discovery:

Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery

Maker: Darla DeFrance, Columbia City Church of Hope

Whereas, we acknowledge with pain and regret the damage done to the indigenous inhabitants of the Americas by the European conquest and migration to what Europeans called a “new world”, but which was in reality already the homeland of many peoples, and

Whereas, we recognize that Christian churches were and remain complicit in that conquest, migration and dispossession, and that Christian churches helped develop conceptions of Native peoples that blamed them for their own ills and that continue to perpetuate prejudice and injustice against them and their descendants, and

Whereas, during November of 1987 the Church Council of Greater Seattle coordinated a public apology to the tribal councils and traditional spiritual leaders of the Indians & Eskimo peoples of the Pacific NW where ten Christian judicatory leaders signed including Bishops Thomas Blevins and Lowell Knutson, and

Whereas, we deplore and reject the so-called ‘doctrine of discovery’: the legal principle, originating with Pope Alexander VI in 1493 and further entrenched in U.S federal law in Johnson v. McIntosh (1823), that Native inhabitants have no property or any other rights which colonizing European nations and their sovereigns are bound to respect. This principle promotes the myth that the Americas were a largely empty land that European conquerors and migrants had a right to claim, occupy, and possess simply by virtue of their Christianity and their European civilization.

Now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that, the Northwest Washington Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America memorialize the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly to repudiate the European Christian derived ‘doctrine of discovery’ and its continuing impact upon tribal governments and individual tribal members to this day, and acknowledge and repent of its complicity in the evils of colonialism in the Americas, and requests the Office of the Presiding Bishop to plan an appropriate ELCA national ceremony of repentance and reconciliation with tribal leaders, and provide resources for similar synodical and congregational observances with local tribal leaders, at all such times and places as are appropriate.


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