Sunday, September 13, 2015

Elements of Process

Elements of Process

1.) Information: Search, Research, Intake, Absorb, Share.

2.) Consciousness: Develop a personal critical consciousness on the issues which are pervaded by the institutionalization of the Doctrine of Discovery from the local-regional, continental-global context.

3.) Reveal: Create a shared community understanding on how the dehumanizing principles of the Doctrine of Discovery are relevant today and continue to provide the cultural framework for the ongoing colonization and genocide of the Original Nations of this continent, the Great Turtle Island Abya Yala.

4.) Take a position. Denounce and repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery and the underlying pathological schema of DOMINATION.

5.) DISMANTLE: Take action, and follow through with inter-generational decolonization strategies.

Strategic Frames
Local-Regional : Continental-Global

Intent and Emergence

Education : Cognition
Law : Harmony
Youth : Regeneration
Religion : Spirituality
Environment : Pacha Mama

Friday, May 29, 2015

Amah Mutsun Tribal Band: Open Letter to Pope Francis

Historically known as ''San Juan Bautista Band and San Juan Band' Indians of California
PO Box 5272  Galt, CA 9562
February 24, 2015

His Holiness Pope Francis Casa de Marta
Vatican City Rome 00120

Re: Open Letter to Pope Francis

Your Holiness, Pope Francis,

My name is Valentin Lopez and I am the Chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band.  Our historic and continuous Tribe is comprised of the documented descendants of the indigenous peoples taken to Missions San Juan Bautista and Santa Cruz in the state of California, United States of America. Our Amah Mutsun Tribe is not a federally recognized Tribe. The Federal Government of the Unites States does not acknowledge our Tribe nor does it provide assistance to our members. We are writing this letter to voice our disbelief and objection to your intent to canonize Franciscan Friar Junipero Serra.

When you were first selected Pope our Amah Mutsun Tribal Council discussed your selection on a number of occasions and we were very optimistic. We were hopeful that you would understand the plight of the indigenous descendant and how they have been ignored and marginalized by society. We applauded your words of peace, justice, truth, and dignity. We were also optimistic that you would understand how our people need to recover from generations of oppression and pain. Your decision to canonize Fr.  Serra is a clear message that our reality of poverty, suicide, depression, substance abuse, and many other ills will continue to impact the lives of our members for many more years and perhaps many more generations.

Because we believed your papacy would be different we wrote you two letters dated August 29, 2013 and April 25, 2014. In these letters we introduced our Tribe and described our pre-contact history. We also described our ancestor's experiences at the mission. I told you of how many of our female ancestors were tied together by their thumbs and forced to march to the missions. Once there they were considered the property of the mission.   It's estimated that life expectancy was less than two years at some missions. I also discussed how our current Tribal members continue to suffer from the impact of cumulative emotional and psychological wounding, which is otherwise known as historic trauma. This trauma resulted from the generations of physical and emotional brutality as well as the attempted cultural and spiritual genocide of all California native people. Our ancestors endured this brutality not only during mission times but this legacy continued during the Mexican and American periods. Historic trauma also results from the fact that from mission times to the present our legitimate past and our humanity as indigenous people have never been truly acknowledged by any governmental or religious organization.

The two letters we sent were accompanied by letters from Dr. Donna Schindler, psychiatrist, and Bishop Francis Quinn, Bishop Emeritus of Sacramento California. Dr. Schindler's letters discussed historic trauma and explained how our members continue to suffer today because of our tragic history starting with the brutalities our ancestors suffered at the missions. Bishop Quinn's letter, dated May 7, 2014, stated that although the "language of these letters is sometimes very intense, I support the basic message." In both letters we requested that you offer a mass of reconciliation to the Indigenous people of California, as that would be an important step in our efforts to find healing from our historic trauma.

When you announced recently that you would canonize Fr. Junipero Serra we were in absolute disbelief. It is incomprehensible for us to think that you would canonize a person who is ultimately responsible for the death of approximately 100,000 California Indians and the complete extermination of many Native tribes, cultures and languages. The brutality of Fr. Serra is well documented in his own writings. On July 31,1775 Fr. Serra wrote a letter to Spanish Governor Fernando de Rivera y Moncada requesting that he punish four Indians for attempting to run away from San Carlos de Borromeo de Carmelo mission.   Fr. Serra wrote, "I am sending them to you so that a period of exile, and two or three whippings which   Your Lordship may order applied to them on different days may serve, for them and for all the rest, for a warning, may be of spiritual benefit to all; and this last is the prime motive for our work.  If Your Lordship does not have shackles, with your permission they may be sent from here.  I think that the punishment should last one month."  On July 7, 1780 Fr. Serra wrote a letter to Governor Felipe de Neve to explain his policy of whipping Indians, "That the spiritual fathers [priests] should punish their sons, the Indians, by blows appears to be as old as the conquest of these kingdoms." This violence, intimidation and terror which was sponsored and ordered by Fr. Serra clearly set the policy and foundation for all future brutal acts at the missions. Obviously, Fr. Serra's standard for violence against the Indians was the same standard as that used in the conquest of all of the Americas.

There were many horrendous and documented events during the mission period in California.  For example, in 1809 a Commander of the Spanish military ordered Spanish soldiers to massacre 200 women and children who refused to continue to march to Mission San Juan Bautista.  These women and children were cut into pieces with sabers while the commander ordered that their remains be scattered on the ground; this event is documented.  After this atrocity "the priests swore all of the soldiers to secrecy."  While some will argue that Junipero Serra himself was not directly responsible for this massacre, there is no dispute that he is responsible for creating the system that allowed these types of inhumane and depraved events to occur. Furthermore, to remove him from the consequences of the missions would be the same as removing the leaders of terrorist groups, or military aggressors who acted in the name of religion of any era, including the terrorist groups of today, from the actions of their followers.

Following your announcement that you were going to canonize Serra, I reflected on what I believed to be the definition of a "Saint." I have always thought that the Catholic Church considered someone a saint only when that person followed Jesus Christ and lived his/her life according to Christ's teaching. Frankly, I see no similarities between Serra and Jesus Christ. The latter never used military enforcers or corporal punishment to get people to follow his teaching, nor did he use beatings and whippings. Jesus Christ never considered people to be property or turn them into slaves. Jesus Christ never considered anyone to be a heathen, a pagan, or a savage. At no time did Jesus Christ ever say that a man had no soul, nor did Jesus Christ ever teach that the end results justified the means.

We often hear that the times were much different when Fr. Serra first came to California and that we cannot use today's standards to judge his actions.  The Amah Mutsun completely agrees.  The Catholic Church should not use today's standards to judge  Fr. Serra.  Instead, the Catholic Church should judge Fr. Serra against the times and the words that Jesus Christ spoke when he was on earth; over 1,750 years before the time of Serra.  Serra should have known that to follow Jesus Christ's footsteps meant that he needed to have understanding and love for others and that no one could or should ever be forced to accept Jesus Christ.  We read that Jesus came in peace and he was often attacked.  Fr. Serra came in the name of Jesus, but yet he brought soldiers and was prepared to attack.  How Fr. Serra is worthy of public veneration based upon actions most people would consider to be evil is unfathomable.

Many of Serra's actions were acceptable to the Catholic Church based on the Diversas Bull of 1452 and other related bulls. These bulls, which promoted the conquest, colonization, and exploitation of non­-Christian nations, specifically granted the Pope's blessing "to capture, vanquish, and subdue the Saracens, pagans, and other enemies of Christ and put them into perpetual slavery and take all their possessions and their property." In 1493 Pope Alexander VI issued a law granting Spain's dominion over all lands that Columbus had located.

On October 23, 2013 the Religious Sisters of Charity wrote to you and asked you to publicly repudiate and rescind the Diversas Bull of 1452, the Caetera Bull of 1493, and other related bulls. To date, the Catholic Church has refused to do this. How could the Catholic Church remove the words and life of Jesus Christ to define sainthood and replace the definition of sainthood with papal bulls that sanctioned Christian enslavement, power and Spain's dominion over all lands that Columbus had located? The Amah Mutsun have no doubt that Serra's canonization is based on these papal bulls and not the words and actions of Jesus Christ. We join the Sisters of Charity in asking you, Holy Father, to repudiate and rescind the Bulls referenced above.

We must add that until these bulls are rescinded we can only conclude that the Catholic Church considers many of our ancestors, current members and future descendants to be the enemies of Christ. We do not believe Jesus Christ believes us to be his enemy; we'd like the church to explain this paradox.

On August 29, 2013, tribal leaders from four mission tribes, Rudy Ortega, Tribal Administrator and Tribal Spiritual Leader, Tataviam Tribe, Mel Vernon, Captain, Mission San Luis Rey Tribe, Ray Hernandez, Chumash, and our Amah Mutsun Tribe, and Dr. Schindler met with Bishop Gerald Wilkerson of San Fernando Pastoral Region and Bishop Edward Clark, Regional Bishop, Archdiocese of Los Angeles.  At these meetings we told them of the need for the church to tell the truth regarding Fr. Serra and the Mission period.  We also made them aware of the impact of historic trauma on our members.  Following this meeting we sent the Bishops a letter, dated May 30, 2013, documenting the 12 points we discussed at our meeting. We offered specific recommendations on how the church could help our tribal members heal from our historic trauma.  We also offered to help the church establish positive relationships with the descendants of the Indians taken to the mission.  We ended the letter by saying we look forward to working with the Bishops. No response to this letter was ever received.

On December 20, 2013, we met with Mr. Ned Dolejsi, Executive Director, California Catholic Conference. At our meeting we shared with him our letter to Bishops Wilkerson and Clark. We also requested that Dr. Schindler and I be allowed to speak at the next quarterly all Bishops Conference to inform the attendees that there are surviving tribes from the mission period and that the truth needs to be told regarding the history of the California missions. Shortly after our meeting Mr. Dolejsi notified Dr.
Schindler that our request was denied. This denial reinforced what we've believed for generations, the Catholic Church does not acknowledge our Tribes or our humanity.

On December 11,2012, Bishop Garcia of the Monterey Diocese held a mass of reconciliation for the indigenous peoples and their descendants taken to Mission San Juan Bautista.  At this mass Bishop Garcia apologized for events of the past that were hurtful and expressed "a desire for a new relationship that promotes common spiritual growth, honesty, mutual respect and a desire to forgive and be forgiven for past wrongs." Prior to this mass our Tribal Council decided that we should "acknowledge" this apology versus to "accept" the apology. We felt that for the apology to be sincere it had to be followed up by specific actions that demonstrated the church's sincerity. When you announced that you were going to canonize Serra we realized that although Bishop Garcia apologized, the church does not understand our history, nor does it understand the great pain and suffering it has   caused.

On September 14, 1987, Pope John Paul stated in a speech that was directed to indigenous peoples that "The early encounter between your traditional cultures and the European way of life was an event of such significance and change that it profoundly influences your collective life even today. That encounter was a harsh and painful reality for your peoples." He then added, "At the same time, in order to be objective, history must record the deeply positive aspects of your people's encounter with the culture that came from Europe. Among these positive aspects, I wish to recall the work of the many missionaries who strenuously defended the rights of the original inhabitants of this land. They
established missions throughout this southwestern part of the United States."

As the Chairman of the Amah Mutsun I can honestly say we fail to recognize any "positive aspects" of our cultural oppression, physical decimation and destruction of our traditional societies. We do not believe that the missions worked to improve our living conditions. Instead we were enslaved, beaten, raped, and in many cases had life expectancies of less than two years? Do the positive aspects of the mission system include its long term legacy: tribal poverty, suicide, physical abuse, substance abuse, identity issues, not to mention the church's denial of our humanity, our culture and our spirituality? Do the positive aspects of the mission system include the church continuing to hold land that was traditionally the land of our ancestors while most current day descendants of those taken to the missions have no tribal land?

In the year 2000, Pope John Paul II issued a diverse apology on behalf of the Catholic Church. In his apology Pope John Paul said, "Whenever the truth has been suppressed by governments and their agencies or even by Christian communities, the wrongs done to the indigenous peoples need to be honestly acknowledged ...The Church expresses deep regret and asks forgiveness where her children have been or still are party to these wrongs ...The past cannot be undone, but honest recognition of past injustices can lead to measures and attitudes that will help to rectify the damaging effects for both the indigenous community and the wider society."

The Amah Mutsun assert that the truth of Fr. Serra's destruction of our Tribal culture, spirituality, and lives continues to be intentionally suppressed and never honestly acknowledged by the Catholic Church. Interestingly, Pope John Paul also said, “An excuse is worse and more terrible than a lie, for an excuse is a lie [that is] guarded."  The Amah Mutsun believe that for Fr. Junipero Serra to be canonized, the Catholic Church must create an excuse for his brutal actions and for the devastating mission system that he created.

Speaking on behalf of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, we would like you to know that should you go forward with your announced intentions to canonize Serra, please know that we rescind the request we made in our letters to you for a mass of reconciliation.  The canonization of Serra will be a clear message to our Tribe that the church does not care about our true history or our historic trauma.  Furthermore, please know that if Fr. Serra is canonized, the Amah Mutsun reject the diverse apology offered by Pope John Paul to all indigenous people as our Tribe can only conclude that his apology, which was an apology ostensibly on behalf of the catholic church, was meaningless and insincere.

A book titled A Cross of Thorns, The Enslavement of California's Indians by the Spanish Missions, by author Elias Castillo, will be released soon. The book is the result of more than six years of research and study of original documents including eyewitness accounts by early travelers, records kept by the friars, and historic letters by church and government authorities in Alta California and Mexico. A Cross of Thorns describes the brutality of Serra and the dark and violent reality of mission life. Castillo wrote, "Even a fellow Franciscan, Fr. Antonio de la Conception Horra, wrote in 1799 that The treatment of the Indians is the most cruel I have ever read in history. For the slightest things they receive heavy floggings, are shackled, and put in the stocks, and treated with so much cruelty that they are kept whole days without a drink of water." In 1820, the last Spanish Padre Presidente of the missions, Father Mariano Payeras, worriedly wrote his superior in Mexico City that they, "had to come up with an alibi when people started asking where all the Indians had gone. Unless they had an excuse, the Franciscans would be subjected to scorn and scandal. Wrote Payeras: All we have done to the Indians is consecrate them, baptize them and bury them."  It is also our belief that in addition to canonizing Serra based on Bulls, you are also basing his canonization on the alibi created by the Franciscans and not the reality of his actions. The publisher of this book, Linden Publishing Inc., provided the enclosed copy of A Cross of Thorns; we hope that by reading this book you will have a new understanding of Fr. Serra and the California Missions.

It's important for you to know that our Amah Mutsun Creation story tells us that Creator very specifically selected our people to live on the lands of our traditional tribal territory that we know as Popouloutchum.  Creator unambiguously gave our Tribe the responsibility of taking care of Mother Earth and all living things. This is true for all Native American tribes. Our people worked hard to please Creator and to fulfill our obligations.  At first contact with Europeans our Tribe, as all other tribes of
California, were already civilized; we actively managed the landscape, we were subject to authority, and we had laws. We had a well-developed and sophisticated culture and we were very spiritual. All of our songs were prayer songs and all of our dances were prayer dances.  Our people continually prayed so

that they lived their life with their heart, mind, body and soul. They prayed for balance in their life, their family and their world. They prayed for their relationship with Mother Earth, with other human beings and with Creator.

Father Boscana, a Franciscan Scholar, and mission priest, who wrote of the Indians near San Juan Capistrano stated that "the Indians of California may be compared to a species of monkeys." He was incorrect. Our ancestors were not monkeys, they were not pagan, they were not heathens, and they were not savages. Our members believe that Creator will harshly judge those responsible for the events at the missions that led to the death of so many of our ancestors and the destruction of our culture.

This particularly includes Fr. Serra, who you now intend to canonize.

The Amah Mutsun again ask, Holy Father, that if you choose to go forward with the naming of Junipero Serra as a Saint, that before doing so you rescind Pope John Paul's apology to Native Americans.  At the very least, please rescind his apology to the Amah Mutsun.  In addition, should you go forward with your plans to canonize Junipero Serra we rescind our request that you offer a mass of reconciliation to the descendants of those taken to the California missions.  The Amah Mutsun would consider that apology as being the same as knocking someone down and then apologizing by saying, “I’m sorry I knocked you down, now let me kick you."  To this we must say, "No thank you."

In this letter, we have talked about the need for healing.  We are well aware, however, that it is important not only for our Tribe to heal, it is important for all perpetrators to heal.  This includes the Catholic Church, and other governments and individuals who have caused harm and loss to the California Indians.  There can be no doubt that our efforts to begin to work on this healing were clearly rejected by the Catholic Church.

The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band sends this letter with our hope and prayers that you will reevaluate your decision to canonize Junipero Serra and that you reevaluate the Church's relationship with the descendants of all California Indians taken to the missions.

kansireesum - With our heart,

Valentin Lopez, Chairman Amah Mutsun Tribal Band
(916)  743-5833

oc:       Mr. tif.ed         si,.Executive Director
Calfornia Catholic Conference 1119 K Street, Second Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814

Bishop Gerald Wilkerson
San Fernando Pastoral Region
15101 San Fernando Mission Boulevard Mission Hills, CA 91345-1109

Bishop Edward Clark
'Regional B shop,Archdiocese of Los Angeles 3424 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90010-2202

Bishop Richard Garcia Diocese of Monterey 425 Church Street
Monterey,  CA 93942

UNPFII Intervention by Valentin Lopez, Amah Mutsun Tribal Band
April 23, 2015 UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues: Intervention by Valentin Lopez, Chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band speaking in opposition to the canonization of Fray Junipero Serra by Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church, Head of the Vatican State.


Banda Tribal Amah Mutsun: Carta abierta al Papa Francisco


Click Here:



Please consider sending a letter of support and solidarity to:

His Holiness Pope Francis Casa de Marta
Vatican City Rome 00120
Send a copy to:
Valentin Lopez, Chairman Amah Mutsun Tribal Band
PO Box 5272  I Galt. CA 9562
February 24, 2015
  Valentin Lopez

Banda Tribal Amah Mutsun: Carta abierta al Papa Francisco

24 de febrero del 2015

Su Santidad Papa Francisco
Casa de Marta
Ciudad del Vaticano, Roma 00120

Re: Carta abierta al Papa Francisco,

Su Santidad, Papa Francisco,

Mi nombre es Valentín López y soy el presidente de la Banda Tribal Amah Mutsun. Nuestra tribu histórica y continua se compone de los descendientes documentados de los Pueblos Indígenas reducidos en las Misiones de San Juan Bautista y Santa Cruz, en el estado de California, Estados Unidos de América. Nuestra Tribu Amah Mutsun no es una tribu reconocida federalmente. El Gobierno Federal de los Estados Unidos no reconoce nuestra tribu ni proporciona asistencia a nuestros miembros. Le escribimos esta carta para expresar nuestra incredulidad y oposición a su intención de canonizar el Fray Franciscano Junípero Serra.

Cuando recién usted fue seleccionado Papa, nuestro Consejo Tribal Amah Mutsun discutió su selección en un número de ocasiones y nos quedamos muy optimistas. Teníamos la esperanza que usted entendería la difícil situación de los descendientes Indígenas y la forma en que han sido ignorados y marginados por la sociedad. Aplaudimos sus palabras de paz, justicia, verdad y dignidad. También estábamos optimistas de que usted entendería cómo nuestra gente necesita recuperarse de generaciones de opresión y dolor. Su decisión de canonizar P. Serra es un mensaje claro de que nuestra realidad de pobreza, suicidio, depresión, abuso de sustancias, y muchos otros males, seguirá afectando la vida de nuestros miembros por muchos años más y tal vez muchas más generaciones.

Porque creíamos que su papado sería diferente, le escribimos dos cartas de fecha 29 de agosto 2013 y el 25 de abril de 2014. En estas cartas introdujimos nuestra tribu y describimos nuestra historia pre-contacto. También describimos las experiencias de nuestros antepasados ​​en la misión. Mencioné cómo muchos de nuestros antepasados ​​femeninos fueron atadas juntas por sus pulgares y obligadas a marchar a las misiones. Una vez allí eran consideradas propiedad de la misión. Se estima que la esperanza de vida era de menos de dos años en algunas misiones. También hablé de cómo nuestros miembros tribales actuales continúan sufriendo el impacto de la herida acumulativa emocional y psicológica, que se conoce también como el trauma histórico. Este trauma resulta de las generaciones de brutalidad física y emocional, así como el genocidio cultural y espiritual intentado hacia todas las personas nativas de California. Nuestros antepasados ​​soportaron esta brutalidad no sólo durante la época de la misión, pero esta herencia continuó durante los períodos de México y Estados Unidos. El trauma histórico también resulta del hecho de que desde los tiempos de la misión hasta la actualidad nuestro legítimo pasado y nuestra humanidad como Indígenas nunca han sido verdaderamente reconocidos por ninguna organización gubernamental o religiosa.

Las dos cartas que enviamos fueron acompañados por cartas del Dr. Donna Schindler, psiquiatra, y el Obispo Francis Quinn, Obispo Emérito de Sacramento California. Las cartas del Dr. Schindler discutían trauma histórico y explicaban cómo nuestros miembros siguen sufriendo hoy a causa de nuestra historia trágica empezando por las brutalidades que nuestros antepasados ​​sufrieron en las misiones. La carta del Obispo Quinn, del 7 de mayo de 2014, declaró que aunque el "lenguaje de estas cartas es a veces muy intenso, yo apoyo el mensaje básico." En ambas cartas solicitamos que usted ofrezca una misa de reconciliación con los Pueblos Indígenas de California, ya que sería un paso importante en nuestros esfuerzos para encontrar la resolución de nuestro trauma histórico.

Cuando usted anunció recientemente que le canonizaría al P. Junípero Serra estábamos en la incredulidad absoluta. Es incomprensible para nosotros pensar que usted canonizará a una persona que es en última instancia responsable de la muerte de aproximadamente 100.000 Indios de California y el exterminio completo de muchas tribus, culturas e idiomas nativos. La brutalidad del P. Serra está bien documentada en sus propios escritos. El 31 de julio 1775 P. Serra escribió una carta al gobernador español Fernando de Rivera y Moncada pidiendo que se le castigue a cuatro Indios por intentar huir de la misión de San Carlos de Borromeo de Carmelo. Padre Serra escribió: "Yo les voy a enviar a usted para que un período de exilio, y dos o tres azotes que Su Señoría pueda ordenar que se les aplica en días diferentes puedan servir, para ellos y para todos los demás, como advertencia, puede ser del beneficio espiritual para todos; y este último es el motivo principal de nuestro trabajo. Si Su Señoría no tiene ataduras, con su permiso pueden ser enviadas desde aquí, creo que el castigo debe durar un mes. " El 07 de julio 1780 P. Serra escribió una carta al gobernador Felipe de Neve para explicar su política de Indios azotados, "Que los padres espirituales [sacerdotes] deberían castigar a sus hijos, a los indios, por golpes parece ser tan antigua como la conquista de estos reinos." Esta violencia, la intimidación y el terror que fue patrocinado y ordenado por el P. Serra estableció claramente la política y las bases para todos los actos brutales futuros en las misiones. Obviamente, los estándares del P. Serra para la violencia contra los Indios fueron los mismos estándares que se utilizaron en la conquista de todas las Américas.

Hubo muchos eventos horrendos y documentados durante el período de la misión en California. Por ejemplo, en 1809 un comandante del ejército español ordenó a los soldados españoles masacrar a 200 mujeres y niños que se negaban a seguir marchando hacia la misión de San Juan Bautista. Estas mujeres y niños fueron cortados en pedazos con sables, mientras que el comandante ordenó que sus restos sean esparcidos en el suelo; este evento está documentado. Después de esta atrocidad "los sacerdotes juraron todos los soldados a guardar el secreto." Mientras algunos argumentan que el propio Junípero Serra no fue directamente responsable de esta masacre, no hay duda de que él es el responsable de crear el sistema que permitía que este tipo de eventos inhumanos y depravados ocurrieran. Por otra parte, excusarlo de las consecuencias de las misiones sería lo mismo que excusar a los líderes de grupos terroristas o agresores militares que actuaron en nombre de la religión de cualquier época, como los grupos terroristas de hoy, desde las acciones de sus seguidores.

A raíz del anuncio de que usted iba a canonizar a Serra, reflexioné sobre lo que creía ser la definición de un "Santo". Siempre he pensado que la Iglesia Católica considera a alguien solamente un santo cuando esa persona siguió a Jesús Cristo y vivió su vida de acuerdo a las enseñanzas del Cristo. Francamente, no veo similitudes entre Serra y Jesucristo. Este último nunca utilizó ejecutores militares o el castigo corporal para que la gente a seguir sus enseñanzas, ni usó golpes y azotes. Jesucristo nunca se consideró a la gente a ser propiedad o convertirlos en esclavos. Jesucristo nunca consideró a nadie a ser un infiel, un pagano o un salvaje. En ningún momento Jesucristo jamás dijo que un hombre no tenía alma, ni Jesucristo nunca enseñó que los resultados finales justifican los medios.

A menudo escuchamos que los tiempos eran muy diferentes cuando el P. Serra llegó por primera vez a California y que no podemos utilizar los estándares actuales para juzgar sus acciones. Los Amah Mutsun están completamente de acuerdo. La Iglesia Católica no debe utilizar los estándares actuales para juzgar P. Serra. En lugar de ello, la Iglesia Católica debe juzgar P. Serra en relación con los tiempos y las palabras que Jesucristo habló cuando estaba en la tierra; más de 1750 años antes de la época de Serra. Serra debería haber sabido que seguir los pasos de Jesucristo significaba tener la comprensión y el amor por los demás y que nadie podía ni nunca debe ser forzado a aceptar a Jesucristo. Leemos que Jesús vino en paz y fue atacado con frecuencia. Padre Serra llegó en el nombre de Jesús, pero sin embargo, trajo soldados y estaba preparado para atacar. Es insondable cómo P. Serra puede ser digno de veneración pública en base a acciones que la mayoría de las personas consideran que son el malas.

Muchas de las acciones de Serra eran aceptables para la Iglesia católica sobre la base de la Bula Diversas de 1452 y otras bulas relacionadas. Estas bullas, que promovieron la conquista, la colonización y la explotación de las naciones no cristianas, otorgaron específicamente la bendición del Papa "para capturar, vencer y someter a los sarracenos, paganos y otros enemigos de Cristo y ponerlas en esclavitud perpetua y tomar todas sus posesiones y sus bienes". En 1493 el papa Alejandro VI emitió una ley que concede el dominio de España sobre todas las tierras que Colón había localizado.

El 23 de octubre 2013, las Hermanas Religiosas de la Caridad le escribieron a usted y le pidieron repudiar públicamente y rescindir la Bula Diversas de 1452, la Bula Caetera de 1493, y otras bulas relacionadas. Hasta la fecha, la Iglesia Católica se ha negado a hacerlo. ¿Cómo podría la Iglesia Católica eliminar las palabras y la vida de Jesucristo para definir la santidad y reemplazar la definición de la santidad con bulas papales que sancionaron la esclavitud cristiana, el poder y el dominio de España sobre todas las tierras que Colón había ubicado? Los Amah Mutsun no tienen ninguna duda de que la canonización de Serra se base en estas bulas papales y no en las palabras y acciones de Jesús Cristo. Nos unimos a las Hermanas de la Caridad para pedirle a usted, Santo Padre, que se repudie y rescinde la Bulas referenciadas anteriormente.

Debemos añadir que hasta que se rescindieran estas bulas sólo podemos concluir que la Iglesia Católica considera que muchos de nuestros antepasados, miembros actuales y futuros descendientes son los enemigos del Cristo. No creemos que Jesucristo nos cree ser su enemigo; nos gustaría que la Iglesia nos explique esta paradoja.

El 29 de agosto de 2013, los líderes tribales de tribus de cuatro misiones, Rudy Ortega, administradora tribal y líder espiritual, Tataviam Tribe, Mel Vernon, Capitán, la tribu de Misión San Luis Rey, Ray Hernandez, Chumash, y nuestra Tribu Amah Mutsun, y Dr . Schindler se reunieron con el Obispo Gerald Wilkerson de la Región de San Fernando Pastoral y el obispo Edward Clark, Obispo regional de la Arquidiócesis de Los Ángeles. En estas reuniones les hablamos de la necesidad por la Iglesia de decir la verdad sobre el Padre Serra y el período de la misión. También les hicimos tomar conciencia del impacto del trauma histórico de nuestros miembros. Después de esta reunión hemos enviado a los obispos una carta, de 30 de mayo de 2013, la documentación de los 12 puntos que discutimos en nuestra reunión. Ofrecimos recomendaciones específicas sobre cómo la iglesia podría ayudar a nuestros miembros de la tribu se curan de nuestro trauma histórico. También ofrecimos a ayudar a la iglesia a establecer relaciones positivas con los descendientes de los indios adoptadas para la misión. Terminamos la carta diciendo que esperamos con interés trabajar con los obispos. Ninguna respuesta a esta carta nunca fue recibida.

El 20 de diciembre de 2013, nos reunimos con el Sr. Ned Dolejsi, Director Ejecutivo de la Conferencia Católica de California. En nuestra reunión hemos compartido con él nuestra carta a los Obispos Wilkerson y Clark. También pedimos que se nos permitiría, al Dr. Schindler y a mí, hablar en la próxima Conferencia trimestral Episcopal para informar a los asistentes de que hay tribus sobrevivientes de la época de la misión y que la verdad necesita ser contada sobre la historia de las misiones de California. Poco después de nuestra reunión el Sr. Dolejsi notificó Dr. Schindler que fue negada nuestra petición. Esta negación refuerza lo que hemos creído durante generaciones, la Iglesia Católica no reconoce nuestras tribus o nuestra humanidad.

El 11 de diciembre de 2012, el obispo García de la Diócesis de Monterrey celebró una misa de reconciliación de los Pueblos Indígenas y sus descendientes reducidos en la Misión de San Juan Bautista. En esta misa el obispo García se disculpó por los acontecimientos del pasado que eran hirientes y expresó "el deseo de una nueva relación que promueva el crecimiento espiritual común, la honestidad, el respeto mutuo y un deseo de perdonar y ser perdonado por los errores del pasado." Antes de esta misa nuestro consejo tribal decidió que debemos "reconocer" esta disculpa, y no "aceptar" la disculpa. Sentimos que para que la disculpa sea sincera, tendría que ser seguida por medidas concretas que demuestren la sinceridad de la iglesia. Cuando usted anunció que se iba a canonizar Serra nos dimos cuenta de que, aunque el obispo García se disculpó, la iglesia no entiende nuestra historia, ni entiende el gran dolor y sufrimiento que ha causado.

El 14 de septiembre de 1987, el Papa Juan Pablo declaró en un discurso dirigido a los Pueblos Indígenas que "El encuentro temprano entre sus culturas tradicionales y el modo de vida europeo fue un evento de tal importancia y un cambio que influyó profundamente en su vida colectiva incluso hoy en día. Ese encuentro fue una realidad dura y dolorosa para sus pueblos ". Luego agregó: "Al mismo tiempo, con el fin de ser objetivo, la historia debe registrar los aspectos profundamente positivos del encuentro de su pueblo con la cultura que vino de Europa. Entre estos aspectos positivos, deseo recordar la labor de los muchos misioneros que vigorosamente defendieron los derechos de los habitantes originales de esta tierra. Ellos establecieron misiones en toda esta parte suroeste de los Estados Unidos".

Como Presidente de la Amah Mutsun honestamente puedo decir que no reconocemos ningún "aspectos positivos" de nuestra opresión cultural, destrucción física y la destrucción de nuestras sociedades tradicionales. No creemos que las misiones trabajaron para mejorar nuestras condiciones de vida. En cambio, ¿fuimos esclavizados, golpeados, violados, y en muchos casos teníamos una esperanza de vida de menos de dos años? ¿Los aspectos positivos del sistema de misión acaso incluyen su legado a largo plazo: la pobreza tribal, el suicidio, el abuso físico, el abuso de sustancias, problemas de identidad, por no hablar de la negativa de la iglesia de nuestra humanidad, nuestra cultura y nuestra espiritualidad? ¿Los aspectos positivos del sistema de misiones acaso incluyen como la iglesia continua acaparando la tierra que tradicionalmente era la tierra de nuestros antepasados, mientras que la mayoría de los descendientes de hoy días de los que fueron reducidos en las misiones no tienen tierra tribal?

En el año 2000, el Papa Juan Pablo II publicó una disculpa diversa en nombre de la Iglesia Católica. En su disculpa, el Papa Juan Pablo dijo: "Cada vez que la verdad ha sido suprimida por los gobiernos y sus agencias o incluso por las comunidades cristianas, los daños causados ​​a los Pueblos Indígenas deben ser honestamente reconocidos... La Iglesia expresa su profundo arrepentir y pide perdón, donde sus hijos han sido o siguen siendo parte de estos males ... El pasado no se puede deshacer, pero el reconocimiento honesto de las injusticias del pasado pueden dar lugar a medidas y actitudes que ayuden a corregir los efectos perjudiciales tanto para la comunidad indígena y la sociedad en general."

Los Amah Mutsun afirmamos que la verdad sobre la destrucción, por parte del Padre Serra, de nuestra cultura, espiritualidad y vida tribal sigue siendo suprimida intencionalmente y nunca sinceramente reconocida por la Iglesia Católica. Curiosamente, el Papa Juan Pablo también dijo: "Una excusa es peor y más terrible que una mentira, una excusa es una mentira [que está] vigilada." Los Amah Mutsun creen que al ser canonizado el P. Junípero Serra, la Iglesia Católica debe crear una excusa para sus acciones brutales y para el sistema de misión devastadora que él creó.

Hablando en nombre de la Banda Tribal Amah Mutsun, nos gustaría que usted sepa que si sigue adelante con sus intenciones anunciadas para canonizar Serra, sepa que rescindimos la petición que le hicimos en nuestras cartas anterior para una misa de reconciliación. La canonización de Serra será un mensaje claro a nuestra tribu que la iglesia no se preocupa por nuestra verdadera historia o nuestro trauma histórico. Además, tenga en cuenta que si el padre Serra es canonizado, los Amah Mutsun rechazaran la disculpa diversa ofrecida por el Papa Juan Pablo II a todos los Pueblos Indígenas, ya que nuestra tribu sólo puede concluir que su disculpa, que era una disculpa ostensiblemente en nombre de la iglesia católica, no fue sentida ni sincera.

Un libro titulado A Cross of Thorns, The Enslavement of California's Indians by the Spanish Missions, por el autor Elías Castillo, se dará a conocer pronto. El libro es el resultado de más de seis años de investigación y estudio de los documentos originales, como testimonios de los primeros viajeros, los registros mantenidos por los frailes y cartas históricas por las autoridades eclesiásticas y gubernamentales en la Alta California y México. A Cross of Thorns describe la brutalidad de Serra y la realidad oscura y violenta de la vida de la misión. Castillo escribió: "Incluso un compañero franciscano, el P. Antonio de la Concepción Herra, escribió en 1799 que el tratamiento de los indios es el más cruel que he leído en la historia. Por razones más mínimas reciben azotes fuertes, están encadenados, y puestos en el cepo, y tratado con tanta crueldad que se les mantiene días enteros sin un vaso de agua ". En 1820, el último Padre Presidente español de las misiones, el Padre Mariano Payeras, preocupado escribió a su superior en la Ciudad de México que, "tuvieron que inventar una excusa cuando la gente empezó a preguntar donde todos los indios se habían ido. Sin excusa, los franciscanos hubieran sido sometidos a escarnio y escándalo. Payeras Escribió: Todo lo que hemos hecho a los indios es consagrarlos, bautizarlos y enterrarlos ". También es nuestra creencia de que, además de basar la canonización de Serra en Bulas, también se está basando su canonización en la coartada creada por los franciscanos y no la realidad de sus acciones. El editor de este libro, Linden Publishing Inc., permitió adjuntar una copia de A Cross of Thorns; esperamos que al leer este libro usted tendrá una nueva comprensión del P. Serra y las misiones de Californi

Es importante que usted sepa que nuestra historia de creación de los Amah Mutsun nos dice que el Creador seleccionó muy especialmente a nuestro pueblo para vivir en las tierras de nuestro territorio tribal tradicional que conocemos como Popouloutchum. El Creador sin ambigüedad dio a nuestra tribu la responsabilidad de cuidar de la Madre Tierra y todos los seres vivos. Esto es cierto para todas las tribus nativas americanas. Nuestra gente trabajó duro para complacer al Creador y para cumplir con nuestras obligaciones. En el primer contacto con los Europeos nuestra tribu, como todas las demás tribus de California, ya eran civilizados; hemos gestionado activamente el paisaje, estábamos sujetos a la autoridad, y teníamos leyes. Tuvimos una cultura bien desarrollada y sofisticada, y éramos muy espiritual. Todas nuestras canciones eran canciones de oración y todos nuestros bailes eran bailes de oración. Nuestra gente oraron continuamente para que vivieran su vida con su corazón, mente, cuerpo y alma. Oraron por el equilibrio en su vida, su familia y su mundo. Oraron por su relación con la Madre Tierra, con otros seres humanos y con el Creador.

Padre Boscana, un erudito franciscano y sacerdote de misión, quien escribió sobre los indios cerca de San Juan Capistrano declaró que "los indios de California puede compararse a una especie de monos." Él era incorrecto. Nuestros antepasados ​​no eran monos, no eran paganos, no eran infieles, y ellos no eran salvajes. Nuestros miembros creen que el Creador juzgará duramente a los responsables de los hechos ocurridos en las misiones que llevaron a la muerte de muchos de nuestros antepasados ​​y la destrucción de nuestra cultura. Esto incluye especialmente el P. Serra, quien ahora usted tiene la intención de canonizar.

Los Amah Mutsun pedimos nuevamente, Santo Padre, que si decide seguir adelante con el nombramiento de Junípero Serra como un Santo, que antes de hacerlo, usted rescinda la disculpa del Papa Juan Pablo a los nativos americanos. Por lo menos, por favor, deje sin efecto sus disculpas a los Amah Mutsun. Además, en caso de que siga adelante con sus planes para canonizar Junípero Serra, rescindimos nuestra petición que usted ofrezca una misa de reconciliación a los descendientes de los reducidos a las misiones de California. Los Amah Mutsun considerarían esa disculpa ser igual que pegarle a alguien y luego disculparse diciendo: "Lo siento, te derribado, ahora déjame patearte." A esto hay que decirle: "No, gracias."

En esta carta, hemos hablado de la necesidad de resolución. Somos conscientes, sin embargo, que es importante no sólo para nuestra tribu de sanar, es importante para todos los actores de sanar. Esto incluye a la Iglesia Católica, y otros gobiernos e individuos que han causado daños y pérdida de los indios de California. No puede haber ninguna duda de que nuestros esfuerzos para comenzar a trabajar en esta sanación fueron claramente rechazados por la Iglesia Católica.

La Banda tribal Amah Mutsun envía esta carta con la esperanza y oración que usted va a reevaluar su decisión de canonizar Junípero Serra y que se reevaluará la relación de la Iglesia con los descendientes de los indios de California reducidos en las misiones.

kansireesum - Con nuestro corazón,

Valentín López, Presidente

Banda tribal Amah Mutsun

(916) 743-5833

Banda tribal Amah Mutsun: Carta abierta a Papa Francisco

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Catholic Groups in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples Ask Pope Francis to Rescind Papal Bulls from 15th Century

Sisters of Loretto/Co-Members of Loretto

 Nov. 25, 2013
For more information,
call/e-mail Jean Schildz,
(314) 962-8112, ext. 106

For Immediate Release

Thirteen Catholic Groups in Solidarity with Indigenous People Join Their Request to Ask Pope Francis to Rescind Papal Bulls from 15th Century

Thirteen Catholic groups today announced their request to Pope Francis to issue a formal rescission of the 15th century papal bulls that provide the basis for the Doctrine of Discovery. Joining together to make the request are the Loretto Community, together with the elected leadership of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, the 19 member congregations of Dominican Sisters Conference, the Sisters of St Francis (Rochester, Minn.), Sisters of St. Joseph (Concordia, Kan.), Sisters of St. Joseph (Philadelphia), Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth (Kan.), the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes (Fond du Lac, Wis.), Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Casa Loreto, Rome), Sisters of St. Joseph and Associates of Buffalo New York; Pax Christi International; as well as the 8th Day Center for Justice which is funded by 34 congregations of religious men and women; and the Franciscan-founded Nevada Desert Experience in collaboration with Chief Johnnie L. Bobb of the Western Shoshone National Council. The membership of the 13 groups includes women and men religious and laypeople. The groups’ request stands in solidarity with indigenous peoples’ persistent requests to every pope since 1984 to do the same.

Columbus’ arrival in the Western Hemisphere began an era of horrific violence based on religious intolerance. The Doctrine of Discovery justified this violence in addition to the seizure of any land not owned by Christians. The 13 groups cited above call upon Pope Francis to start a new era of justice with a public declaration that formally rescinds Dum Diversis Bull of 1452, which granted the pope’s blessing “to capture, vanquish and subdue the Saracens, pagans and other enemies of Christ and put them into perpetual slavery and to take all their possessions and their property,” and Inter Caetera Bull of 1493, which granted authority to Spain and Portugal to “take all lands and possessions” so long as no other Christian ruler had previously claimed them. The 13 groups cited above also ask Pope Francis to create a new papal bull that promotes ethical norms in harmony with Gospel values.

Other Catholics have raised their voices in solidarity with this worldwide indigenous peoples’ request, notably Pax Christi International in a prior communication to the World Council of Churches, and the Religious at the United Nations signing a letter to Pope Francis originated by the Passionists International. It is likely that other Catholics have similarly stood as allies, and more are expected to experience the call to do so. All voices in solidarity are welcome.

The requested actions would be a moral victory for indigenous people, and one long overdue. Recent popes have made gestures of reconciliation, moving the Catholic Church and the world at large forward to this important moment. Indigenous groups stand firm in their requests for rescission and repudiation of the official bulls, seeking the same formality with which they were issued. The 13 groups previously cited stand in solidarity with these requests of indigenous neighbors, far and near.

These groups draw inspiration from their Catholic heritage and Gospel values of peace and justice. Many members of these communities were shocked to learn of the doctrine, saddened at the delay experienced by indigenous peoples and eager to show solidarity with the justice-based effort. The past year for many communities has been one of slowly coming to terms with something that indigenous peoples have experienced for centuries.

The 13 Catholic groups making this request join with other denominations that have made similar announcements, including the World Council of Churches, the Episcopal House of Bishops, the Philadelphia, New York and Canadian Yearly Meetings of the Religious Society of Friends and the Boulder Friends Meeting (Quakers), the United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalists and many others.

To join in this effort, please contact Loretto Papal Bull Rescission Committee members Libby Comeaux ( or Mary Helen Sandoval (

*Today’s relationships between governments and indigenous people in the Americas, Africa and Oceania have as their foundation the “Doctrine of Discovery.” It is a principle of international law with roots dating back to 15th century papal bulls. These decrees largely were used to justify Western Europe’s dominion over lands occupied for thousands of years by indigenous peoples. They made possible the European age of “discovery,” sanctioning and promoting the conquest, colonization and exploitation of non-Christian lands and peoples.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Concept of Native Title by Leroy Littlebear


By Leroy Littlebear  (1982)

Presently in Canada the issue of aboriginal rights, Indian title, and land claims by the Indian people are issues that to the people of Canada are major concerns. These issues are of a major concern not only because if recognized as legitimate and legal it means the payment of large sums of money by the people of Canada to the Natives of this country, but they also have implications for the development and exploitation of the natural resources, especially oil and gas, and for the ecology.  But so far, neither the Canadian Government nor the people at large have come to grips with these issues.  It is probably more correct to say that they do not want to come to grips with them.

The courts of Canada have had several opportunities to deal with aboriginal rights, but not unlike the government, they too have avoided dealing directly the issues. They find one technicality or another to dismiss a case.

In regards to land, aboriginal rights includes native title, and land claims almost exclusively deals with the issue of native title.  In this short paper, the writer will attempt to present a concept of native title for purposes of educating these people who are in a position to do something about these issues.

Three recent court decisions have attempted to deal with native title: Calder v. Attorney General of British Colombia[1], referred in layman's terms as the “Nishga Case”; Kanatewat v. James Bay Development Corporation[2], and its sequel, James Bay Development Corporation v. Kanatewat[3], better known as the James Bay Cases; and Re Paulette and the Registrar of Land Titles[4].

In the Calder case, the Supreme Court of Canada held against the Nishga Indians of British Columbia. Their holding was to the effect that if the Nishgas had title, this title had long ago been extinguished by adverse acts on the part of the British Crown. The Court also reasoned that Indian title does not exist independent of legislation recognizing it.  But the court did not define Native Title.

At the superior court level of the James Bay cases, the judge held that Indians had aboriginal title. But the Quebec Court of Appeals reversed the superior court's decision and in essence held that there is no such thing as aboriginal title.  They reasoned that no treaties had ever been signed in the James Bay area, therefore, no Native title exists.  But this of course, is ridiculous because treaties are a means of extinguishing Indian title and not a means of creating it.  But both courts did not define Indian title.

In the Paulette case the judge, in handing down his decision on whether the Indians of the Northwest Territories could lodge a caveat in regards to the land they were claiming, held that arguably the Indians had a legally recognizable interest in the land in spite of the fact that the area claimed was covered by a treaty[5].  He reasoned that the Treaty could not be interpreted as a total surrender and should be looked at as a peace and friendship treaty.  At the Court of Appeals level, again, the lower court's decision was reversed.  The Court of Appeals in essence held that a caveat could not he lodged against a sovereign without its permission.  Here again the court did not define Native title.

Important as these decisions are and the implications they have for aboriginal rights in Canada, the single most important decision is St. Catherine’s Milling and Lumber Co. v. The Queen[6], handed down by the Privy Council.  The Council held “that the tenure of the Indians as a personal and usufructuary right, dependent on the goodwill of the sovereign”; that there has been all along vested in the Crown a substantial and paramount estate, underlying the Indian’s title, which became a plenum, dominium whenever that title was surrendered or otherwise extinguished”.  In other words, the British Crown, prior to the discovery of North America, has always had title to the lands in North America in an a priori sense.  The result of the St. Catherine’s Milling and Lumber Co. case is that the British, by simply setting foot on North America and planting a rag attached to a pole on the shores, acquired the title to Indian lands.

This ritual, i.e. the coming ashore and the planting of a flag and the claiming of the land for the Monarch, is sometimes referred to as "Discovery". The Doctrine of Discovery is one justification for claiming fee simple title to lands in North America.  But the doctrine has been abused, misconstrued, and misinterpreted by the white man.  Chief Justice Marshall of the United States Supreme Court, and one of the first to use the Concept or Discovery in his decisions, said in the Johnson and Graham’s lessee v. Mc’Intosh case[7] that discovery was a doctrine meant to apply to the European powers for their own orderly conduct in dealing with the aboriginal people of North America.  Hence, discovery was not meant to apply to the Indians.  It was not meant to mean fee simple ownership.  To the contrary discovery can be analogized to a ‘business franchise’.  Just as a business franchise gives exclusive rights to the owner of the franchise to enter into business relations with people, within the geographic area of the franchise, discovery was meant to give a European power which came to the shores of North America the exclusive right to deal with the Indians whose territory covered or included the particular area discovered by a European power.  A right to deal with people certainly does not give ownership to their property.

Before moving on, the writer would like to consider two separate but not unrelated fundamental questions.  Firstly, in regards to the reasoning of the Privy Council in the St. Catherine’s Milling and Lumber Co. case, the writer would like to ask, “What is property?” Most authorities would define property to be the relationship that people have about a thing.  Taking this definition and applying it to the statement by the Privy Council that the Crown has always had underlying title to the lands in question how is it possible to have a relationship about a thing, in this case, land, which a people do not know exists?

In regards to the doctrine of discovery, it interpreted as giving fee simple ownership, rather than being in the nature of a franchise, then should not the doctrine have a geographic limitation, in the same way that the Royal Proclamation of 1763 has been held not to apply to terra incognita?

When it come to the consideration of Native title, most authorities reason that Indians have no concept of property ownership and therefore, how could they have title?  But this is nonsense!  It is high time the Government and the Courts stop using as premises false reasonings such as “personal and usufructuary right dependent on the good will of the sovereign" for stare decisis sake.  At one time reasonings such as were forwarded in the St. Catherine's Milling and Lumber Co. case may have held water and we can, at least, give them the benefit of the doubt because people probably did not know any better. But we know better today, and we know different.  At least, we claim to be one of the most advanced societies this world has ever known.  It is time we put out intelligence to work in a way that will do justice to our claim!

In order to understand the property concepts of any society, one must have some appreciation of the overall philosophy or habitual thought of that society.  By habitual thought, the writer means the philosophical premises that are basic to a culture; premises that a society used to relate to the world.  The habitual thought of Western Occidental society is very linear and singular.  A good example of linear things is Western Occidental society's concept of time.  Time is conceptualized as a straight line.  If one attempted to picture "time" in his mind, he would see something like a river flowing toward and on past him.  What is behind is the past.  What is immediately around him is the present. The question is upstream.  But one cannot see very far upstream because of a waterfall, the waterfall symbolizing the barrier to knowing the future.  This line of time is conceptualized as quantity, especially as lengths made of units.  A length of time is envisioned as a row of similar units.

A logical and inherent characteristic of this concept of time is that once a unit of the river of time flows past, that particular unit never is gone forever.  This characteristic lends itself to other concepts such as "wasting time”, "making up time”, "buying time", “being on time", which are unique to Western Occidental society.

Another characteristic of this linear concept of time is that each unit of time is totally different and independent of similar units.  Consequently, each day is considered a different unit, and thus a different day.  Every day is a new day, every year is a new year.  From this the reader can readily understand why there is a felt need among Western society to have names for days and months, and numbers for years.  In general, Western philosophy is a straight line.  One goes from A to B to C to D to E, where B is the foundation for C, and C is the foundation for D, and on down the line. 

Many Native people think in terms of cyclicity.  Time is not a straight line.  It is a circle. Every day is not a new day, but the same day repeating itself.  There is no need to name each day a different name.  You only need one name: day.  This philosophy is the result of a direct relationship to the Macrocosm.  The sun is round; the moon is round; a day is a cycle – daylight followed by night; the seasons follow the same cycle year after year.  A characteristic of cyclical thinking is that it is wholistic, and the same way that the circle is a whole.  A cyclical philosophy does not lend itself readily to dichotomies of categorizations, nor fragmentation, nor polarizations, whereas linear thinking lends itself to all of the above.  Linear thinking, also, lends itself to singularity.  For example, “there is only one great spirit”, “only one true rule”, “only one true answer”.  These philosophical ramifications of Western habitual taught result in misunderstanding wholistic concepts.  Westerners relate themselves to only one aspect of the whole at the time.

The linear and singular of philosophy of Western society, in the cyclical and the wholistic philosophy of most Native people can readily be seen in the property concepts each society has.  British concepts of ownership or title dissimilar to Native concepts of land ownership. An underlying premise of the British property system is that no one can own land in the same way that one can own a book. One cannot possess land in the same way that one can possess a book. Possession forms a large part of ownership.  Since one cannot own land in the same way that he can own a book, a system has been devised by the British to give symbolic ownership.  This system is known as the estate system.  Under the estate system one cannot outrightly own the land, mainly because land outlasts human beings.  The land was there before the present owner, and will still be there after the present owner passes.  Consequently, one can only have an interest in the land called an estate.

The British developed a hierarchy of interests or estates.  At the very top is "a fee simple absolute”. It is a possessory fee simple absolute, the largest estate known to the law.  Even though a parcel of land has geographic bounds, when considered in terms of time, this estate is said to be of infinite duration.  It is a present, freely alienable, possessory estate.  There are no other outside interests.  A fee simple absolute can be symbolized as A (grantor) to B (grantee) and his heirs.

On down the line come the defeasible estates. The first defeasible estate is the fee simple determinable (with a possibility of a reverter).  It is possible that A, a landowner in a fee simple absolute will grant land to B with a condition, or limitation which will cause the estate of B to come to an end upon the happening of a certain event.  The fee simple determinable can be symbolized as A (grantor) to B (grantee) plus a condition (so long as liquor is not sold on the premises).  The interest retained by the grantor is known as a possibility of a reverter.  The grantee has all the same rights in regards to the land as one having a fee simple absolute except for the one condition, hence he has a lesser interest than one having a fee simple absolute.

Another defeasible estate is the fee simple subject to a condition subsequent.  It can by symbolized as A (grantor) to B (grantee) on the condition that liquor is never sold on the premises; but if liquor is ever sold on the premises, the grantor shall have a right to enter. This interest is not greatly different from the fee simple determinable. The main difference is the interest retained by the grantor.  In the F.S.D., the grantor interest automatically terminates on the happening of an event.  As soon the condition is broken, the fee reverts back to the grantor.  In the F.S.S.C.S. the fee does not automatically revert back to the grantor on the happening of an event or when the condition is broken.  The grantor or his heirs must exercise the right to re-enter before the fee reverts back.  If the right of re-entry is not exercised, the fee remains in the grantee in spite of the condition being broken.

Another step down the hierarchy of estates is the Fee Tail, which has been phased out of British common law. The fee tail limits the class of heirs capable of inheriting to those who likewise answer the description of lineal descendants. When and if the line of lineal descendants runs out, the estate tail comes to an end.  The Grantor retains a non-posessory, future estate called a reversion.  A fee tail can be symbolized in legal language as follows: A (grantor) to B (grantee) and the heirs of his body.

There are a number of other interests or estates such as a life estate, indefensible vested remainders, contingent remainders, executory interests, and a number of non-freehold estates.  But for our purposes, the above will suffice.

A couple of observations can be made in regard to the estate system.  Firstly, the system is linear vertically.   The system is also very singular.  It is geared to the individual ownership of land. Secondly, an underlying goal of the system is to facilitate transferability of the different interests.  Thirdly, the system necessitates an extensive and complicated registry. It makes possible to chronologically trace previous owners. If one went back far enough to the original source or original owner, one would discover that it is the Crown or the Monarch.  In other words, the source of title is the Crown.

Indian ownership of property, and in this case, land is wholistic. Land is comunally owned. Indian property ownership is somewhat akin to joint tenancy: the members of a tribe have an undivided interest in the land; everybody, as a whole, owns the whole.  In regards to title, to use the language of the estate system, the Native concept of title is somewhat like a F.S.D., or a F.S.S.C.S, or a F.T. or a combination of all three.  It is as though the original grantor of the land to the Indians put a condition on it… “so long as there are Indians”; “so long as it is not alienated”; “on the condition that it be used only by Indians” etc.  In other words, the Indian concept of title is not equivalent to a fee simple, but is somewhat less than fee simple. This is not to say that they were not capable of conceiving a fee simple concept.  If one attempts to trace the Indian’s source of title, one will quickly find the original source is the Creator.  The Creator, in granting land, did not give the land to human beings only but gave it to all living beings.  This includes plants, sometimes rocks, and all animals.  In other words, deer have the same type of estate or interest as any human being.  This concept of sharing with fellow animals and plants is one that is quite alien to Western society’s concept of land.  To Western society, only human beings have a right to land, and everything else is for the convenience of human beings.  The concept of the Indians of sharing with fellow living things is not unrelated to the concept of social contract that has been forwarded by some philosophers.

For instance, Rousseau and Locke refer to a social contract to explain the origins society and government.  But their social contract refers to human beings only. If the idea of a social contract is applied to Native people, one will find that it includes not only human beings but all other living beings.

An observation about the Indian’s concept of land title includes a reference back to the basic philosophy.  Indian property concepts are wholistic.  Ownership does not rest in any one individual, but belongs to the tribe as a whole, as an entity.  The land belongs not only to people presently living, but it belongs to past generations and to future generations. Past and future generations are as much a part of the tribal entity as the living generation.  Not only that, but the land belongs not only to human beings, but also to other living things; they, too, have an interest.

The question inevitably arises as to just what the Indians surrendered when they signed treaties or engaged in activities that today the government claims were actions on the part

of the Indians extinguishing their title.  Firstly, the Indian concept of land ownership is certainly not inconsistent with the idea of sharing with an alien people.  Once the Indians recognized them as human beings, they gladly shared with them.  They shared with Europeans in the same way they shared with the animals.  But sharing here cannot be interpreted us meaning that Europeans got the same rights as any other Native person, because they were not descendants of the original grantees, or they were not parties to the original social contract.  Sharing certainly cannot be interpreted as meaning that one is giving up for all eternity his rights.

Secondly, the Indians could not have given a fee simple in any land transaction they may have engaged in, because they did not have a fee simple.  They were never given a fee simple by their grantor.  It is well known in British property law that one cannot give an interest greater than he has.

Thirdly, Indians could not have given an interest equal to what they were originally granted, otherwise they would be breaking the condition of the fee granted. Not only that, but they are not sole owners of the original grant.  The land belongs to the past generations, the yet to be born, and the plants and animals.  In order to give an interest equal to the original grant, one would have to get a transfer from those holding an equal interest, and these would include the dead, and the yet to be born, and the plants and animals.  Has the Crown ever received a surrender from these other living entities?

Fourthly, the only kind of interest that the Native People have given or transferred is an interest lesser than they had, for one can always give an interest smaller than he has.  For instance, if one holds an F.S.S.C.S., one can always give away a life estate.  From the above one can readily conclude that the Indians did not surrender very much if they surrendered anything at all.

Fifthly, the above philosophy, property concepts, and ramifications and implications thereof, may sound ridiculous and fairy-tale-like, but what philosophy does not? Do biblical stories make more sense?  To Native people they sound rather ridiculous and make believe. Does the "Crown" as a fictitious entity make more sense?  The writer does not think so.

Canada as a sovereign nation, via the Crown, claims ownership and sovereignty over all the land within its boundaries.  But how does one gain ownership and sovereignty over particular piece of land?  One can gain sovereignty through aboriginal rights which basically means that one is the original occupier of a particular piece land.  One can gain sovereignty through conquest.  One can gain some land rights through adverse possession.  One can gain title through conveyance.   Lastly and uniquely to the Americas, and claimed to be just by Europeans, one can gain title through discovery. 

If we look at Canada, and ask again, “How did she gain title to the lands within its boundaries? “  It certainly cannot claim title via aboriginal rights.  Only Native people can claim aboriginal rights.  It cannot claim sovereignty through conquest.  Who did it conquer? Sure, one or two small tribes may have been conquered, but certainly not most Indian tribes.  On the contrary, she chose to enter into peace and friendship treaties with most tribes.  If one tribe was actually conquered, it certainly does not mean that all Indians were conquered.  Conquest has geographic limitations in the same way that the Royal Proclamation has geographic limitations.

In the Nishga case, the court in a roundabout way, suggests that the Crown gained title to lands in British Colombia via adverse possession, i.e. adverse acts on the part of the crown.  But the theory of adverse possession could not apply to Native peoples because the land was not individually owned.  Secondly, adverse possession does not apply to a sovereign because an underlying assumption of the theory of adverse possession is that the adverse possession must have his title recognized by a higher entity.  In the case of the sovereign, there is no higher entity.

If the Crown can claim any type of interest, it can legitimize this claim through conveyance and only through conveyance.  But as the writer has already shown, the Indians surrendered if they surrendered anything at all, is a lot smaller to what the government lays claim to.  It certainly is not a fee simple.

The only other means by which Canada can justify its claim to Indian lands is through discovery.  But then the writer has shown how discovery has been misinterpreted and misconstrued.

When the courts and the government say the Indian’s title is dependent on the goodwill of the sovereign, and that the Indian’s interest is a mere burden on the underlying title of the crown, the question to ask is: “What did the Crown get its title from? And how?”

When the courts refer to Indian title, they should say something to the effect of, “the title or interest of the Crown is a mere personal and usufructuary interest dependent on the goodwill of the Indians.”  The Indians have all along had a paramount estate underlying the Crown’s interest.  The Crown’s interest is a mere burden on the title of the Indians.

As a conclusion to this short paper, the writer would like to state that his hope that he has in some small way contributed to a better understanding of the Indians property concepts, which in turn, hopefully, will facilitate a better understanding by those who are not familiar with Indian thinking.  The writer hopes that, in some small way, by this paper, he has contributed toward educating non-Indians about why and the basis for the land claims the Indians are making.

If justice and fairness are underlying goals of today’s government and court system, then the concepts and the philosophy of Indian people should certainly be taken into consideration and given as much weight as British concepts and philosophy.  But if justice and fairness are not underlying goals, then we should stop covering ourselves with a false aura of sacredness and bring out things in the open, so everybody knows where they stand.  In other words, if we cannot be bothered with justice and fairness, we should, at least, be truthful.


[1] Calder V. Attorney-General (1971). 13 D.L.R. (3d) 64, 74 W.W.R. 481.
[2] In Re Paulette, (1974) 42 D.L.R. (3d) 8.
[3] Kanatewat V. James Bay Development Corpo ,and the Attorney General of Canada, Quebec Superior Court of Appeals, November 22, 1973
[4] James Bay Development Corp. V. Kanatewat, Quebec Court of Appeals, November 22, 1973.
[5] Treaty No.11 (1921)
[6] St. Catherine<s Milling and Lumber Co. V. The Queen (1887) 13 S.R.C. 577.
[7] Johnson V. Macintosh 21 U.S. (8)