Truth Be Told

Signed copies of the book I co-authored with Soong-Chan Rah, "Unsettling Truths - The Ongoing Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery" are available from my website:

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Native Perspective on the Renaming of Denali

Denali Mt McKinleyOn Monday, September 1, during a trip to Alaska, President Obama announced that the highest peak in North America would be officially restored to the Koyukon Athabascan name of Denali which means “the tall one.” This is the name the Athabascan people have used for the mountain for centuries. In 1896, a prospector emerged from exploring the mountains of central Alaska and received news that William McKinley had been nominated as a candidate for President of the United States. In a show of support, the prospector declared the tallest peak of the Alaska Range as “Mt. McKinley”—and the name stuck.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

10 Reasons Why I'm Switching from using the term 'Racial Reconciliation' to using the term 'Racial Conciliation.'

The term Racial Reconciliation has been used in Christian, religious and social justice circles for a very long time. However, as I have learned, experienced and understood more about the racial injustices of the United States and the American church, I have begun to realize the inappropriateness of this term.  So below are 10 reasons why I'm switching from using the term 'Racial Reconciliation' to instead using the term 'Racial Conciliation.'

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Myth of Thanksgiving and Racial Conciliation

Being Native American and living in the United States I am frequently asked about appropriate ways to celebrate Thanksgiving.  I have celebrated Thanksgiving all of my life. Growing up, I have memories of my mother waking up at 5 AM to prepare the turkey to the music of Handel's Messiah. In college, I remember traveling home or visiting the homes of my friends to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal and spend time together. I remember cooking my first Thanksgiving turkey and the countless calls home, asking questions throughout the entire process. And I remember many Thanksgiving feasts celebrated on the Navajo Reservation with friends, family and neighbors over the past decade.

What I don’t remember is the myth.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Hypocrisy of a Politically Correct Columbus Day

Flags of the United States of America waved high above the ceremony. On the second Monday of October, 2015 at 11 AM, the National Christopher Columbus Association, in coordination with the National Park Service, celebrated "522 Years of Discovery" by honoring Christopher Columbus at Columbus Plaza in front of Union Station in Washington DC.

In his welcome address, Jamie Keller (Supervisory Park Ranger, National Park Service) said he honored Christopher Columbus because "he went for it." Other speakers from the diplomatic corps of Italy, Spain and the Bahamas, followed and reiterated in some form that Columbus obviously did not "discover America, but…" 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Why America Needs to Remember Columbus Day

There is a movement across the country to re-appropriate Columbus Day as a Native American Heritage Day or Indigenous Peoples Day. Cities like Seattle, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and others have begun this trend, and I am sure other municipalities will soon follow suit.  However, as a native man, I am wary of such actions. Please don't get me wrong. I am all for honoring the native peoples and Indigenous hosts of Turtle Island, but I am hesitant to do so on October 12.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Disappointment...Deep Disappointment

I had been anticipating Pope Francis' speech to a joint session of Congress ever since I learned it was planned. From the beginning of his papacy, Pope Francis has established himself as a fearless advocate for the least, and an unapologetic prophet to both the church and the nations. A leader who shunned the glitter of the Apostolic Palace for the simplicity of a small guesthouse. A peoples Pope who rebuked the rich and ate with the poor, who scolded the extravagance of the industrialized world as he drove through it in a humble and fuel efficient Fiat. Someone who visited with prisoners, prayed with families and walked with indigenous children.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Immigration Reform and the Birthright of American Citizenship

On Monday August 18, Donald Trump released his Immigration Reform proposal. One of the more interesting components of his suggested policy is to end our country's practice of birthright citizenship, which is the granting of citizenship to anyone who is born within our borders. As has been the pattern throughout his entire campaign, the elevated rhetoric of his proposal drew a line in the sand and served as a lightning rod in the broader national dialogue. Other GOP candidates who are also known for their controversial statements, like Ted Cruz and Ben Carson, have aligned themselves with Mr. Trump and echoed his call to end birthright citizenship. While on the other end of the political spectrum, candidates and immigration reform advocates have pounced on this proposal, decrying it as racist, and specifically targeting immigrants of color from our southern borders. Some voices have gone even deeper and discussed the historical roots of birthright citizenship noting that it was adopted from a common practice in English law and affirmed in our Constitution through the 14th Amendment. The same amendment that served as a reversal of the Dred Scott ruling, which intended to keep blacks from attaining US citizenship.

However, there is another component of the birthright citizenship discussion that is sorely missing from both sides of this debate.

Friday, August 14, 2015

August 14 - National Navajo Code Talkers Day

August 14 is National Navajo Code Talkers Day and it is good that, as a nation, we remember and honor these hundreds of courageous men for their service to our country. On the Navajo Reservation, in Window Rock AZ, there is a statue erected in their honor with a plaque commemorating their service. I would like to share with you the words of this plaque and the names of each of the Code Talkers, but first I would like to give you some of the broader historical context that these men literally came out of.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The stealing of Oak Flat and the trauma of the Doctrine of Discovery

On December 19, 2014 House Resolution 3979, the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act was

signed into law. The word "Apache" appears 29 times throughout the pages of this law. Most frequently used to refer to Apache helicopters. However, on page 442 the term "Apache" refers to something that has absolutely nothing to do with helicopters. On page 442, Section 3003 is titled “Southeast Arizona land exchange and conservation” and there the word Apache is used in reference to sacred Apache lands.

The Apache people have worked successfully for years to keep these sacred lands off limits to mining companies. But a last minute rider buried in this massive, must pass, Defense bill by Arizona Senators McCain and Flake changed that. Through this law, Resolution Copper, whose parent company’s affiliates are campaign contributors to Senator John McCain, was given Apache lands for the purpose of mining.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Remarks shared by Mark Charles at #ApacheStronghold rally on Capitol Hill in Washington DC

Chairman Rambler, Congressman Grijalva, Wendsler Nosie, and all my relatives standing here today. Hello my Name is Mark Charles. My mother is American of Dutch heritage and my father is Navajo.

On December 19, 2014 House Resolution 3979, the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act was signed into law. Buried on page 442 is section 3003 which gives away sacred Apache lands to the Resolution Copper mining company.

The Apache people have worked successfully for years to keep these lands off limits to mining companies. But a last minute rider buried in this bill by Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake changed that.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A day of lament...

Today I lament, I mourn over the life of each and every person that was violently taken in Charleston South Carolina.

I lament that a 5 year old child was robbed of her innocence and forced to "play" dead in order to survive.

I lament that today, the confederate flag is still flying in the Capitol of South Carolina.

I lament the roots of dehumanization that exist within the founding documents of the United States of America; in our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution and our Supreme Court case precedents.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Dilemma of the Fourth of July

The other day I was eating dinner with my wife in a restaurant located in Gallup New Mexico, a border town to the Navajo reservation. Gallup was recently named "Most Patriotic Small Town in America" in a nationwide contest. Soon after sitting down I noticed that we were seated at a table directly facing a framed poster of the Declaration of Independence.

The irony almost made me laugh.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Creating a Common Memory with the Doctrine of Discovery

"Everybody get your cell phones out!"

"Make sure you get this on video!"

Early last March, due to an unusually heavy snowstorm in Albuquerque, NM, my flight was cancelled, my travel diverted, and I found myself unexpectedly stuck in downtown Los Angeles for 24 hours while I waited to catch a train back to the Navajo reservation. I was spending the day visiting the LA Union Rescue Mission, utilizing their Chaplains Study to get some work done. It was a beautiful Southern California morning. The sun was shining and my window was open as I worked 2 stories above skid row. I could hear the voices on the streets and knew the police were out, asking people to take down their tents. But it was above the normal noise and commotion that I heard something like the quotes above. So I walked over to the open window to see what was going on.

Pow! Pow!

Pow! Pow! Pow!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Morning: An Empty Tomb (apparently is not enough)

We tend to think of Easter morning as a joyful, blessed morning as Mary and the other women visit the tomb, discover it is empty and run to tell the disciples the "Good News." We imagine scenes of celebration, and shouts of joy as his followers proclaim that "He is risen!!!" We have been lured into thinking that it was only Thomas who was the classic example of doubt and unbelief regarding the news of the resurrection when he said:
"Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."
But, if we read the resurrection story in each of the Gospels we are find that fear, doubt and unbelief was pretty much the typical response of EVERYONE, including those who saw the empty tomb and spoke to the angles!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Holy Saturday: What do you do on the day that the cross is empty and the tomb is sealed?

Two thousand years later, we comfort ourselves on Holy Saturday with the reminder that "Sunday is Coming". But we forget, the disciples did not have that hope. Jesus tried to tell them, but they did not believe. They could not comprehend it. So imagine...

You just watched your master, the person you were convinced was the Messiah, die a horrific death on a Roman Cross. You saw the religious leaders and all of the people publicly reject him. You observed his beating. You followed his trail of blood out of the city. You heard his gasps for breath. You read his lips as he questioned why even his own Father forsook him.

And then you watched the unthinkable. His body went limp as he cried out, gave up his spirit, and died.

The soldiers pierced his side, his blood drained out and all hope was lost.

Still numb, you helped remove his body from the cross. You laid it in a tomb and you watched the stone being rolled in front of it.

And then you saw it sealed.

It was over.

The next morning must have been a daze. For the past 3 years you followed this man around. You walked with him, laughed with him, fed thousands of hungry people with him. You survived storms together. You even saw him heal the sick and raise people from the dead.

But now the cross was empty and the tomb occupied. And all you can think about is the way you ran away when the soldiers came. Even after you looked him in the eye and swore you would never do such a thing!!!

What a horrible day Saturday must have been.

Not only did Jesus, the Messiah, the son of God, die. But he died alone.

Because you abandoned him.

On a day like that, there is only one spiritual discipline that you can cling to. Only one holy practice that you could possibly engage in.

What do you do on the day that the cross is empty and the tomb still sealed?

You weep. You mourn.

You lament.

Friday has happened. And Sunday may be coming. But if we skip over the horrific pain, the absolute confusion and the utter despair that the first Holy Saturday must have been, we devalue them both.

Mark Charles

(Updated 3/31/2018)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Declaration of Independence, the Washington Redsk*ns and merciless Indian Savages

Last week I visited the National Archives in Washington DC and personally viewed the original document of the Declaration of Independence. Did you know that 30 lines below the famous quote "All men are created equal" the founders of this nation referred to Native Americans as "merciless Indian Savages?"

This dichotomy highlights the bi-polar character of the United States of America. We are a nation that built its reputation on freedom and claims to stand for “liberty and justice for all.” But our foundations are clearly based on the dehumanization of others. And rather than acknowledging this, we have instead chosen to cling to a narrative of exceptionalism, a myth of manifest destiny and the lie of promised lands.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

2015 New Year's Reflection: American Exceptionalism and an Invitation to Lament

As the Ball dropped and the clock struck midnight, crowds cheered, fireworks exploded, couples
kissed, balloons fell, and a New Year was rung in. It was a huge celebration.

But in many ways 2014 was a difficult and painful year, especially for minority communities in the United States of America. Ferguson, Eric Garner, failed Immigration Reform, the US Senate report on torture.  We watched hunger strikes on Capitol Hill, protests in NYC, shut down freeways in Northern California, and thousands of African Americans crying out in pain, desperately trying to remind our leaders and our nation that #BlackLivesMatter. Time and time again we were reminded that racism and dehumanization are integral parts of the fabric of our country.