A message from Himko Kaps Kap, (Cayuse), of the Cayuse Nation in the Umatilla Confederacy, co-founding Director of the Long March to Rome and Delegation Lead to the Mission in Rome.
ON MAY 4TH 2016, THE ANNIVERSARY DATE OF THE INFAMOUS 1493 VATICAN DECREE KNOWN AS INTER CAETERA, 11 INDIGENOUS LEADERS, UNDER THE WATCHFUL EYE OF THE CREATOR, BROUGHT A MESSAGE TO POPE FRANCIS.
TO HEAR ONE OF THE DELEGATES DESCRIBE WHAT HAPPENED DURING THAT HISTORIC MEETING AND ITS IMPLICATIONS, CLICK ON THE PAPAL BULL.
HISTORIC INDIGENOUS MISSION ASKS POPE FRANCIS TO REVOKE THE PAPAL BULLS OF DISCOVERY
On May 4th, 2016, the anniversary date of an infamous Vatican decree authorizing the spoliation of indigenous lands and peoples worldwide, eleven indigenous leaders from around the world arrived in St Peter’s Square under the banner of the Long March to Rome, a movement seeking revocation of three Papal Bulls because:
(i) they were the “blueprint” for conquest of the New World;
(ii) they provided moral justification for the enslavement and conquest of indigenous peoples worldwide;
(iii) they are an ongoing violation of contemporary Human Rights legislation; and,
(iv) other communities currently struggling to save their lands are threatened by modern-day ideologies of inequality anchored in the papal bulls.
(l to r : Chief Wilton Littlechild (Cree) ; Himko Kaps Kap (Cayuse); Loretta Afraid of Bear Cook and Barbara Dull Knife (Oglala Sioux); Keith Matthew (Simpcw); Dr Kenneth Deer (Mohawk); Herson Huinca Piutrin (Mapuche) in St Peter’s Square
The delegation represented the Haudenosaunee, also known as the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy, the Assembly of First Nations Canada, representing 634 First Nations from across Canada with 1.4 million citizens from 58 different Indigenous nations, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Yakama nation, with honorary delegate members from the Cayuse, Oglala Sioux, Shawnee, Mapuche, Navajo Diné and Apache Ndee nations.
On this remarkable historic occasion, the message came directly from indigenous leaders to Pope Francis. The message for Pope Francis was simple and straightforward. The only way to move Vatican-indigenous relations forward is to revoke the Papal Bulls of Discovery.
“The pope was very kind. He kept eye contact and he was very attentive. And all he said was ‘I will pray for you.’ ” Dr Kenneth Deer, Mohawk & Haudenosaunee Delegate
PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE
Chief Wilton Littlechild & Yakama Tribal Chairman JoDe Goudy at the Vatican.
After the Papal audience, the delegation crossed Rome to the offices of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at Piazza San Calisto for a meeting with Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, outgoing Geneva Papal Nuncio.
Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi
During the head-to-head, Archbishop Tomasi acknowledged that the Vatican may have to consider issuing a statement and maybe even an apology. Revocation is on the table. Everyone agreed during the meeting that talks should go forward. Dr Kenneth Deer described the proceedings in a recent APTN report on the delegation visit:
THE ROAD TO ROME
The May 4th meeting with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace was made possible principally through three diplomatic avenues pursued diligently by the Long March to Rome over twenty-eight months- involving the intervention of the Honourable Bob Rae, former Ontario Premier, Companion of the Order of Canada, on our behalf, to present the Formal Request for a Private Audience with Pope Francis to Cardinal Peter Appiah Turkson of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace within the framework of a broader process of engagement, the engagement of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and finally very significant high-level diplomatic efforts through the Middle East, Italy and Canada, that influenced decisively on the outcome of the mission.
The Vatican’s historical position on the Papal Bulls of Discovery
On May 30, 1984, on behalf of the Vatican, the Vatican Secretary of State, and the Bishop of Phoenix, the Rev. James E. McFadden wrote as follows in response to a request by Tupac Enrique Acosta for Traditional Xicano Nation, asking for revocation of Inter Caetera as a “a milestone for the peaceful attainment of our universal human rights”:
“Your letter to His Holiness Pope John Paul II was referred by the Vatican Secretary of State to our Bishop, Thomas J. O’Brian. He has asked me to respond on his behalf.
We all appreciate the fact that the Europeans came to America and conquered the native Americans and took the land for their own. This has been the history of the human race – even though it may not be just or fair. If we tried to reverse the process all the English who are descendants of the Normans from France would have to go home. The Goths and the Visigoths who conquered Italy would have to go back to Norway, Sweden and Northern Germany.
“There is no way to reverse the course of history, but the Church is really concerned that Native Americans preserve their culture – have adequate jobs and preserve the Faith that was introduced to the Native Americans by Spaniards, French, Italians, etc”
In April 2010, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See issued a statement regarding the Doctrine of Discovery at the ninth session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, claiming that Inter Caetera
“as a source of international law…was first of all abrogated by the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494, and that the circumstances have changes so much that to attribute any juridical value to such a document seems completely out of place…”
“therefore, for International Law and for the Catholic Church Law, the Bull Inter Caetera is a historic remnant with no juridical, moral or doctrinal value…The fact that juridical systems may employ the “Doctrine of Discovery” as a juridical precedent is now therefore a characteristic of the laws of those states and is independent of the fact that for the Church the document has had no value for centuries The refutation of this doctrine is therefore now under the competence of national authorities, legislators, lawyers and legal historians.”
In 2014, the North American representative to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Grand Chief Edward John, concluded in his “Study on the Impacts of the Doctrine of Discovery on Indigenous Peoples that: “with regard to land dispossessions, forced conversions of non-Christians, the deprivation of liberty and the enslavement of indigenous peoples, the Holy See reported that an “abrogation process took place over the centuries’ to invalidate such nefarious actions. Such papal renunciations do not go far enough.”
This is the cornerstone upon which the Long March to Rome was built: The Vatican had not gone far enough.
THE VATICAN’S POSITION IN 2014
Prior to the Long March to Rome, the Vatican has refused to even admit that the issue of the Papal Bulls exists, by insisting that Inter Caetera “ is a historic remnant with no juridical, moral or doctrinal value”.
A long series of attempts had been made to raise this issue by various individuals, organisations and agencies, both indigenous and non-indigenous, Catholic and Christian. All had failed, most notably the unceremonious turning away of the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers who had arrived to state the case.
Our strategy to succeed was as follows:
Appoint a worldwide indigenous council of leaders vested with the authority of their respective peoples, and familiar with the issue of the Papal Bulls;
File a Formal Request for a Private Audience with Pope Francis I to deal with the matter of revocation of the Papal Bulls of Discovery;
Engage in quiet diplomacy to secure a meeting with Cardinal Turkson of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace to set into motion the long term process of a truth and reconciliation commission;
Apply background pressure through existing top-level political figures either sympathetic to the Long March to Rome, and/or with contacts within the Catholic Church.
The entire Long March to Rome campaign was based upon a meticulously constructed strategy of quiet diplomacy. Two cornerstones drove this campaign to raise public and Vatican awareness of the need to revoke the Papal Bulls of Discovery: the delegation would be indigenous-led, and would solely raise the issue of revocation of the Papal Bulls of Discovery.
Many people have many views on what this may mean for the future impacts for indigenous peoples. The Long March to Rome’s sole position was that the Papal Bulls of Discovery were based upon a “manufactured inequality”, that created the template for injustice by relegating heathen to a lower order of humanity. This was the sole platform that we felt could lead to engagement with the Vatican on this issue and it accurately reflected the technique used in the Papal Bulls.
The most important part of the meeting with the Pontifical Council occurred well before May 4th.
Key Developments 2014-2016
UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
During July, 2015, Long March to Rome sent three delegates – Keith Matthew, David MacKinnon and Dr Sandra Evers – to attend the Geneva Expert Mechanism for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples where MacKinnon spoke as a delegate. During that sojourn, he approached the Papal Envoy for the Vatican, Prof. Vincenzo Buonomo, and spoke with him one-on-one, informing him that an indigenous delegation would be travelling to Rome during May 2016 to seek revocation of the Papal Bulls of Discovery. Prof. Buonomo informed MacKinnon during our meeting that the proper avenue to deal with this matter was through Cardinal Turkson of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. He later confirmed this in writing, adding that it would be in our interest to contact Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, at that time Papal Nuncio of Geneva.
The Formal Request
On January 20, 2016, Bob Rae, former Ontario Premier, delivered a Formal Request for a Private Audience with Pope Francis on Cardinal Turkson of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, signed by 27 indigenous leaders worldwide, with copies sent to the following three dignitaries:
Professor Vincent Buonomo, Dean of Civil Law, Pontifical Lateran University;
Bishop Ganswen, Prefect of the Prefecture of the Papal Household;
Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, Papal Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva.
On January 26, 2016, we received confirmation of receipt of the Formal Request by the offices of Archbiship Tomasi.
On April 1, 2016, we received a letter via the offices of former Ontario Premier Bob Rae, signed by Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson, President of the Pontificium Consilium de iustitita et Pace [Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace] and recognising that “the Indigenous Question raised in your letter and the role of Church Documents are very much in discussion” and that he “shall consult with competent authorities here and respond duly”.
This constituted an unprecedented acknowledgement by the Vatican, and an indication that Cardinal Turkson was open to further discussions, particularly in view of his statement that he “shall consult with competent authorities here and respond duly to your mail.”
During late Autumn, 2014, Long March to Rome engaged in several lengthy discussions with a former prominent Canadian national leader and a Catholic Archbishop and outgoing President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic bishops, during the course of which we explained the purpose of our mission.
On April 1, 2016, we received notice from the incumbent President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic bishops, Bishop Douglas Crosby of Hamilton, thanking the Long March to Rome for our “perspective on the historical background, current conversations and upcoming plans with respect to what you refer to as “the Papal Bulls of Discovery” and indicating that our position had been considered by their Executive Committee, and that as a result, they had carried out “extensive research into the long and complicated history of the so-called “Doctrine of Discovery” which was undertaken by our Conference’s Commission for Justice and Peace for well over a year.”
Our response to Bishop Crosby indicated that “by “joining the issue”, the Canadian synod has moved things forward significantly, and opened the door to a discussion of the merits of the issue as to whether the Papal Bulls of Discovery shouldn’t be revoked.
Already, fundamental progress was being made. For the first time in history, the Catholic Church has publicly acknowledged that it was now prepared to enter onto the terrain of the substantive issue of their role in the Papal Bulls of Discovery
During late October, we initiated a privileged avenue of back-channel diplomacy through the Middle East leading directly to a high-level of the Vatican.
On March 9, 2016, we received news that notwithstanding the very heavy schedule of the Holy Father during this Jubilee Year, the request would be submitted and that:
“A meeting could more easily be arranged with Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace” (Cardinal Appiah Turkson). To this effect, I would need the complete list of people who would travel to Rome and the dates when they can do this.”
We were also informed that “there may also be the possibility of being introduced to Pope Francis during the Wednesday event at St. Peter’s , the Vatican, in Rome” and that the usual practice in these matters was to “wait for the Vatican to propose a date”.
On March 15, 2016, we responded to this overture, and submitted a provisional list of 22 delegates.
On March 21, 2016, we received information that the Vatican was more open to the idea of 10-12 delegates and not 22 as the “idea was to have ten to twelve Heads to meet with the Commission at the Vatican, and/or have an audience with the Pope.”
On April 3, 2016, we wrote to the Vatican emissary, informing him of these developments, and of the fact that the CCCB appeared to be in support of further discussions of the issue of the Papal Bulls of Discovery.
On April 5, 2016, we received confirmation that my missive had been personally passed on to Cardinal Turkson.
During the weeks preceding the arrival in Florence, there was great uncertainty as to whether a meeting would be granted. We felt it crucial that the delegation not be dependent upon the will of the Vatican, and that it was coming as a diplomatic mission, the vanguard of the later missions of duly appointed delegates representing national groups.
The leaders agreed that whether or not an audience was granted, it was essential to demonstrate their independent resolve to pursue the campaign by arriving on the shores of Europe to press the case, and plan according to the Vatican response.
On April 29, 2016, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi confirmed that the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace was prepared to receive our delegation for a one-hour meeting on May 4th, but after we insisted, he agreed to a two hour session.
On May 2nd, arrangements were made for travel to the Vatican on the 4th.
On May 3rd, at 19:30, David MacKinnon was contacted by the Pontifical Council to inform him that they had reserved 25 special status tickets for a Private Audience with Pope Francis at 10:30 am.
Eight hours later, the delegation left from their hotel for Florence train station, and for two dates with destiny.
ELEVEN VOICES – ELEVEN POINTS OF VIEW
The Eleven delegates were very aware that there are 370 million indigenous people in the world and that they had no right to speak on behalf of all indigenous peoples. Even among the eleven, there was a vast divergence of views on the meaning of revocation of the Papal Bulls, but unanimity that the goal of revocation of the Papal Bulls is what unified them. In the end, the only way forward was that the hard-won principle of “each nation, and each individual speaking for themselves” would guide the meeting with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Each delegate would enjoy 5-10 minutes to express how the Papal Bulls had affected their particular communities or groups of communities.
The two principles of the Long March to Rome – an indigenous-led mission seeking revocation of the Papal Bulls of Discovery – were respected right up to completion of our mission.
ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS CANADA
Keith Matthew (Simpcw Nation) acted as the duly mandated representative of the Assembly of First Nations Canada, representing 634 First Nations from across Canada with 1.4 million citizens from 58 different Indigenous nations. Keith personally delivered a letter of support from National Chief Perry Bellegarde, and a copy of the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Resolution of December 2014, endorsing and calling for the participation of its member First Nations in the Long March to Rome. Keith Matthew emphasized that if the Vatican were to show some goodwill, that there was no reason not to envision a “partnership” to finally examine the adverse impacts of the Papal Bulls, and to take concrete action to improve the fate of indigenous peoples.
Dr Kenneth Deer spoke as the duly mandated official representative of the Haudenosaunee, also known as the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy, comprised of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondoga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora Nations. During the Gathering of Nations in Florence, Italy, the Onondoga, burned tobacco, and Faithkeeper Oren Lyons surveyed proceedings from a distance. Deer underlined that a good way for the Church to show good faith would be to join with indigenous peoples in concerted action to pressure national governments into action.
Truth & Reconciliation Commission
Chief J. Wilton Littlechild (Ermineskin Cree) spoke eloquently in his official capacity as Chief, International Chief: Treaty No. 6 Confederacy, former Chair of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and of the Commission on First Nations and Métis Peoples & Justice Reform and as former Commissioner of the prestigious Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Canada) on the issue of the Indian Residential Schools. Chief Littlechild spoke fearlessly and with dignity of his personal experience as a “survivor” of the Indian residential school system. He said that Cree peoples were looking for the “opportunity to forgive”.
Confederacy of the Umatilla
Dr David Close, (Himko Kaps Kap Cayuse), co-founding Director of the Long March to Rome. As Delegation Lead, Dr Close welcomed Archbishop Tomasi’s “reaching out”, emphasizing that it provided a platform for future talks leading to resolution of the Papal Bulls issue. Dr Close underlined that it was crucial that the talks continue.
UN PERMANENT FORUM ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
Grand Chief Edward John, (Tl’azt’en) Expert Member and former Chair, United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, was chairing a meeting of Canadian federal ministers and was absent, but will continue to provide his guidance and leadership to the Long March to Rome. Like the Haudenosaunee leadership, he supported the cause of engagement with the Vatican.
A Voice for the Northwest
Tribal Chairman JoDe Goudy, was invited as a special delegate in his capacity as Chief of the Yakama nation, comprised of 11,000 members, in no small part to honour the groundbreaking work of Emeritus Tribal Court Judge Ted Strong, longtime supporter of the Long March to Rome.
A Voice for the Condor: Herson Huinca Piutrin (Mapuche)
Herson Huinca Piutrin (Mapuche) was specially nominated by the Netherlands Indigenous Movement to bring the voice of the Mapuche peoples to the delegation. He brought the immense knowledge of the Mapuche peoples to this issue, and particularly on the theme of the “animalisation” of indigenous peoples, as well as that of the complicity of newly-independent national governments in Latin America in the oppression of indigenous peoples.
A Voice for Africa: Dr Kassahun Berhanu, Ethiopia
Dr Kassahun Berhanu is a Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. During his presence at the Gathering of Nations, he provided incisive and valuable insights into how the transferable mechanism of inequality is used in land grabbing scenarios today to unjustly deprive ordinary African peoples of their lands.
Two Voices in the Wilderness
Mr Steven Newcomb, a Shawnee Lenape journalist with Indian Country Today, and Birgil Kills Straight, Oglala Sioux, were invited to join in on discussions at the Gathering of Nations on May 1-2, and to accompany the delegation on May 4th in recognition of their efforts to raise worldwide awareness of the Papal Bulls issue over the last thirty years. During his May 1st presentation at the Gathering of Nations, Steven Newcomb traced out his and Birgil Killstraight’s epic journey to bring the issue of the Papal Bulls of Discovery to the world.
Charmaine Whiteface (Oglala Sioux)
Defenders of the Black Hills
A Voice for the Environment
Michael Paul Hill, a participant in the UN Apache-Ndee report, came as the replacement representative for Charmaine Whiteface, the courageous and widely admired Oglala Sioux Elder, renowned as the Defender of the Black Hills.
A Voice for the Voiceless
Belinda Ayze (Navajo Diné) was invited as a special delegate as a symbol of the Long March to Rome, a grandmother who has used the Papal Bulls issue as part of her ongoing emancipation as a human being, engaged in peaceful raising of issues affecting the Navajo Diné nation, some of which were raised during the meeting at the Pontifical Council, and who speaks for “those who have no voice”.
A Timeless Voice of Unity: Grandmother Beatrice Long Visitor Holy Dance
Loretta Afraid of Bear Cook and Barbara Dull Knife approached the Long March to Rome and asked to be named as honorary members of the delegation to honour the recent passing of Loretta Afraid of Bear Cook’s mother, Grandmother Beatrice Long Visitor Holy Dance, who was part of a group known as the “Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers” who came to Rome to raise awareness on the issue of the Papal Bulls. In a moving testimony, recorded from her hospital bed in the final days of her life, Grandmother Beatrice testified in support of the Long March to Rome, but her deeper, heartfelt wish was for UNITY among indigenous peoples. Through the magnificent efforts of Loretta Afraid of Bear Cook and Barbara Dull Knife, the spirit of Grandmother Beatrice guided proceedings in both Florence and Rome.
A Voice of the Heart: Herbie Marshall – Australian Aboriginal
Herbie Marshall, one of the earliest to join in the Long March to Rome, remains immortal for us with his comment: “What you need are six lions, not six thousand sheep!”
Herbie, like so many other along the way, was prevented by destiny from joining us, but they have also travelled to Rome with their hearts and kept the message strong. Thank you, Herbie!
THE NEXT PHASE
The Indigenous leaders are now waiting to see if Archbishop Tomasi will follow up on his intention to hold talks, to hear, but most importantly to address the issue of the revocation of the Papal Bulls of Discovery.
There is no doubt that the mere fact of the visit to the Vatican signals a tectonic shift in relations between the Vatican and indigenous peoples.
Based on the meeting at the Pontifical Council, and Archbishop Tomassi’s reception, the Vatican appears to be serious in its intent to further engage with us to determine the terms of engagement in order to jointly examine the issue of revocation of the Papal Bulls of Discovery.
Surely, this is a step forward, and a platform to finally lay this historical injustice to rest, so all concerned may look to the future with optimism and the understanding that no man, woman or child should be persecuted because he or she worships at another altar.
Long March to Rome 2016
GATHERING OF NATIONS
The Gathering of Nations held April 29th-May 1st in Candila, Italy, just south of Florence, where the leaders discussed the Papal Bulls of Discovery historically, and shared their own experiences of its contemporary impacts. Read more on the GATHERING OF NATIONS
The guiding hand of the Creator was always there in the Long March to Rome, but success was no random event. The tireless work of volunteers, indigenous and non-indigenous worldwide, are what made this possible.
Quiet Diplomacy was activated from Jerusalem to Ottawa. Eminent figures chose to remain in the background, conscious that this discussion had to take place directly between indigenous leaders and the Vatican.
The names of many of them will never be known, but it is crucial that the world hear that this recognition of injustice sparked a reaction that was unanimous among people who merely said: “How can we help?”
Although we wish to respect their discretion, we wish also to express our heartfelt gratitude for the tireless, devoted work they have done to bring this mission to Rome.