Presbyterians Today

APR-MAY 2018

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26 APRIL/MAY 2018 | Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay health on the 500-year-old Doctrine of Discovery, which allowed colonial powers to lay claim to lands belong- ing to foreign sovereign nations if inhabitants were not considered Christian. "The doctrine is still being used to tell native people they don't have the right to own property, govern or manage their resources the way it needs to be done," said the Rev. Alan Buck, pastor of the Portland Native American Fellowship. Ilarion "Larry" Merculieff, an Aleut from Pribilof Islands, says people who are subject to the doctrine are still hurting today. Alcoholism, suicide, addictions and heart disease, he says, are all subtle outcomes of the Doctrine of Discovery. "If the doctrine is repudiated at every level, beginning with church, if we apologize and act to ensure the doctrine is expunged and rejected, it will help open people's hearts, especially native people who are still facing the struggles of this action," Merculieff said. The 222nd General Assembly (2016) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) called the church to confess its complicity and repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. The action also called for a review of the doctrine's history and a report written on the doctrine. "In recent years, partly in response to the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and faith com- munities, including the World Council of Churches (WCC), we have begun to examine the Doctrine of Discovery critically," said Andrew Kang Bartlett, the Presbyterian Hunger Program's associate for national hunger concerns. "This study has led the WCC and denominations in the United States to repudiate the doctrine." Doreen Simmonds, a student at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, says she has finally let go of feelings she had toward the PC(USA) denomination. "I had so much resentment against the church for what it did to my people. I had felt white people were here to take money and the land, but that changed when the General Assembly met here in 2016," she said. "I grew up believing I was nothing, but I will throw away doubts about myself and gain confidence. In my sobriety, I have stories to tell and today I will talk to my children and grandchildren, telling them there is hope, that we have pride in ourselves. Today, I have gained that pride." Safeguarding the future As their resources get smaller, so do the tribes themselves. Elders say young people are not as tied to tradition and seek to find better lives outside of the gorge. Jefferson Greene works in language preservation and grew up hearing stories from his grandparents. His early dreams of becoming a wealthy businessman changed while attending college and he felt drawn to return and carry on traditions. "For thousands of years, the people of the Columbia plateau have harvested together, shared stories and humor," he said. "I wanted to do what my grandparents did for me. We are living in a world completely consumed by another culture for the sake of convenience. There are only a few of us that can do what we do, sharing traditions with new generations." During the 2017 Presbyterians for Earth Care Conference in Oregon, the Rev. Dr. Paul Galbreath, profes- sor of theology and worship at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina, told attendees that the problems go far beyond the Columbia River Gorge. "We are not simply facing an eco- logical crisis, we are facing a spiri- tual crisis," Galbreath said. "Water does not belong to the church. We use it, but it is not ours. Water belongs to God's good Earth." Rick Jones is a communications strategist for the Presbyterian Mission Agency. LEARN MORE Read more about the Doctrine of Discovery at presbyterianmission .org/ministries/racial-ethnic- and-womens-ministries/gender- and-racial-justice-ministries/ doctrine-of-discovery To read the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, visit documents/DRIPS_en.pdf RICK JONES Members of Presbyterians for Earth Care prepare cups of water for a "fire and water" ceremony along the Columbia River banks in Oregon's Celilo Park.

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