I don’t know if many of you know that I moved to Michigan in 2002 from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, where I had lived with my family since 1991. As I’m sure you know, the Vineyard is a beautiful island with some very distinct communities. One area of Oak Bluffs originated as a Methodist camp-meeting town with charming, brightly-colored gingerbread cottages while another section of the town became known as the home of many of the personalities of the Harlem Renaissance. Edgartown was home to many of the whaling captains and their families beginning in the 19th century. Vineyard Haven, also known as Tisbury, is the main port of entry for people and cargo.
By now, I’m sure you’re wondering why the history of an island in Massachusetts has significance for the blog of EDOMI. Well, there’s one region of the island I haven’t mentioned yet and that’s the town of Aquinnah, the home of the Wampanoag Native American tribe. If you recall your Early American history, you will remember that it was also the Wampanoag’s that greeted the Pilgrim settlers when they arrived to the New World in the 1600’s. Just this last week, the Wampanoag’s made news again. I received this letter from the Episcopal Bishops of Province 1:
Statement from the Episcopal Bishops of New England on the Disestablishment of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, the People of the First Light, have lived in what is now known as southeastern New England for 12,000 years. 400 years ago they sheltered the pilgrims in need of refuge and care. After giving that precious gift of hospitality, the Mashpee Wampanoag endured and overcame generations of persecution, oppression and marginalization. Today they are threatened with having their reservation lands taken out of trust and being disestablished by the United States government in their own homeland.
As Christians, we are called by Christ to love our neighbors as ourselves and to grow as a community rooted in love. As Episcopalians, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, The Most Rev. Michael Curry, has called us to work towards a beloved community of racial healing, reconciliation and justice. In this season of Easter in which we celebrate Christ’s Resurrection, we celebrate the Creator’s power of resurrection, justice and love over the powers of death, oppression and empire. In that spirit, we cannot and must not ignore what is happening to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe today.
On March 27, 2020, Chairman Cedric Cromwell/Qaqeemasq wrote: “At 4:00 pm today — on the very day that the United States has reached a record 100,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and our Tribe is desperately struggling with responding to this devastating pandemic — the Bureau of Indian Affairs informed me that the Secretary of the Interior has ordered that our reservation be disestablished and that our land be taken out of trust. Not since the termination era of the mid-twentieth century has a Secretary taken action to disestablish a reservation… It begs the question, what is driving our federal trustee’s crusade against our reservation?” Vice Chairwoman Jesse Little Doe Baird spoke in a statement on March 29th, 2020 about the injustice of removing land out of trust for the tribe and putting tribal housing, language and school programs in dire risk. She called for the public to reach out and support the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe by contacting the Senate and the Secretary of the Interior.
The Episcopal Church has renounced the Doctrine of Discovery and expressed solidarity with indigenous peoples. At the same time, we acknowledge that we
have made our own mistakes in the past, rooted in colonization, selfishness and prejudice in mistreating the Wampanoag people and the many indigenous peoples of this land. In the Gospels (Mark 2:17), Jesus Christ called his followers to metanoia – that is to repentance- to a change in direction and in our way of life which is lived towards God. In this way we must be connected with and supportive of the Wampanoag and the indigenous peoples of this land. In solidarity with the Mashpee Wampanoag people, we call on the United States Department of the Interior and the political leaders of this land to honor and respect the reservation lands of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.
Responding to the Mashpee Wampanoag call for support and advocating with the tribe, we ask you to consider taking any or all of the actions listed below.
The Episcopal Bishops of New England:
The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates, Massachusetts
The Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris, Massachusetts
The Rt. Rev. Carol J. Gallagher, Massachusetts
The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, Connecticut
The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens, Connecticut
The Rt. Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely, Rhode Island
The Rt. Rev. Douglas J. Fisher, Western Massachusetts
The Rt. Rev. Shannon MacVean-Brown, Vermont
The Rt. Rev. Thomas J. Brown, Maine
The Rt. Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld, New Hampshire
Our General Conventions have been adopting resolutions to address the Doctrine of Discovery for many years. In 2009, Resolution D035: Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery was passed and in 2018, Resolution D011: Doctrine of Discovery Training was adopted:
D011: Doctrine of Discovery Training
Resolved, That the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, in accordance with the directive to all dioceses made by the 76th, 77th and 78th General Conventions, most recently with resolution 2015-A024, advance the education of all those seeking ordination in the Church by recommending a minimum of four hours of training on the Doctrine of Discovery; and be it further
Resolved, That the 79th General Convention direct the Indigenous Missioner of the Presiding Bishop’s Office to identify and appoint indigenous representatives to provide training on the Doctrine of Discovery to those seeking ordination, such that the Office of Indigenous Ministries provide direction to and oversight of the Doctrine of Discovery training program; and be it further
Resolved, That the 79th General Convention encourage seminaries and local clergy formation programs to allocate funds from their organizational budgets or pursue available grant funding for the provision of four hours of training on the Doctrine of Discovery for those seeking ordination.
The explanation given for Resolution D011 states:
Christian European monarchs and popes were historically responsibility for legitimizing colonial genocide of diverse Indigenous peoples through a series of three Papal Bulls of Discovery: Dum Divers as (1452), Romanus Pontifex (1455) and Inter Caetera (1493). The bulls form the basis of a body of law known as The Doctrine of Discovery, which remains in force today. Additionally, the Doctrine of Discovery historically informed the legal premise for justifying the enslavement of African and Asian peoples. In 2009, the 76th General Convention of The Episcopal Church passed resolutionD-O35, calling for the Episcopal Church to review its policies and programs with a view to exposing the historical reality and impact of the Doctrine of Discovery and eliminating its presence in contemporary policies, programs and structures.
Because the Doctrine of Discovery is a legacy of Christian missionization and colonialism, leadership in The Episcopal Church bears particular responsibility to know the historical role and impact of the Doctrine of Discovery. Additionally, the opportunity for direct engagement with Indigenous trainers promotes the Church’s work of racial reconciliation in ways that strive to heal and transform injustice and brokenness in ourselves, our communities, institutions and society. By providing Indigenous trainers for the education of all persons seeking ordination in the Church, Indigenous voices in the Church will be empowered to provide an educational experience which only they are truly qualified to present, informed as they are by their lived experience today and which cannot rightly be ascribed to the past. The Office of the Indigenous Missioner provides centralized leadership and has existing organizational resources to support this work
While our Church is trying to bring healing to our relationships with Native Americans, it appears that the Secretary of the Interior is moving in the opposite direction with the move to disestablish the lands of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe. The letter from the Bishops of Province I included some resources to become better informed and to reach out and express our concern and opposition to this action:
CALL YOUR SENATORS
ASK: Please protect the Mashpee Reservation by passing HR 312
WRITE TO SENATE INDIAN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN HOEVEN AND RANKING MEMBER UDALL
The Honorable John Hoeven
Chairman Senate Indian Affairs Committee
The Honorable Tom Udall
Ranking Member Senate Indian Affairs Committee
838 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
CONTACT THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR TO EXPRESS YOUR SUPPORT FOR THE MASHPEE WAMPANOAG TRIBE
SIGN THE PETITION
To learn more about the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and what is at stake, you can watch this video: https://vimeo.com/293866929
To learn more about the Episcopal Church and the Doctrine of Discovery, you can see the resources on this page: https://episcopalchurch.org/library/topics/doctrine-discovery
Let us pray –
Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
maker of all things, judge of all men:
We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness,
which we from time to time most grievously have committed,
by thought, word, and deed, against thy divine Majesty,
provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us.
We do earnestly repent, and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings;
the remembrance of them is grievous unto us, the burden of them is intolerable.
Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us, most merciful Father;
for thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, forgive us all that is past;
and grant that we may ever hereafter serve and please thee in newness of life.
We beseech thee also so to rule the hearts of those who bear the authority of government in this and every land, especially the Secretary of the Interior, that they may be led to wise decisions and right actions for the welfare of all people, for the glory of thy Son, our Lord, Jesus. Amen.
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council