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:

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Transcript of Homily at Call to Action 2016 - Lamenting the Mythology of a Christian Empire



>> Homily by Mark Charles at Call to Action conference in Albuquerque

>> Ya'at'eeh. My name is Mark Charles, in the Navajo culture when you introduce yourself you always give your four clans. We're a matrilineal people and so our identities come from our mother’s mother. My mother's mother is American of Dutch heritage, so when I introduce myself I say [speaking indigenous language] -- which translated means the wooden shoe people.


My father's mother, my second clan, is [speaking indigenous language] -- the waters that flow together. My third clan, my mother's father is also [speaking indigenous language]-- and my fourth clan, my father's father, is the bitter water clan, one of the original clans of our Navajo tribe.

I want to reflect on this passage we read from the gospels today (Luke 21:5-19).

I would imagine Jesus was a little worried here. He is near the end of his ministry, he is about ready to be crucified, and he is looking over the city of Jerusalem and looking at the temple and his disciples are still so impressed with this place.


They are looking at the stones, at the walls and the buildings, and they're saying this is magnificent.

This is awesome.

This is amazing.

And they are going on and on about this.

Now, Jesus has been trying to hammer into their heads for his entire ministry that it's not about the institution. He is trying to get them to understand he didn't come here to establish a worldly kingdom.

When he fed 4,000 people earlier in the gospels and the people came to him by force to make him king, he walked away. When john saw that he was not acting like a political messiah -- John the Baptist saw that he was hanging out with tax collectors and sinners and helping women and doing things that priestly, godly people should not be doing, he sent his servants to him, his disciples asked Jesus “are you the one we're waiting for, or should we look for someone else?”

When Jesus told his disciples he would be crucified, Peter pulled him aside and rebuked him. Throughout his entire ministry, Jesus was trying to get the disciples to understand it's not about these worldly institutions.

I did not come to establish a Christian empire.

My kingdom is of another place, my kingdom is somewhere else. It goes past what we see in this present-day reality.

And so when his disciples began talking this way, Jesus, I would imagine, was a little worried and he began warning them.

I tell you, not one stone is going to be left standing.

People are going to come after you.

They are going to persecute you.

You are going to die.

Expect these things. Don't be surprised when these things begin to happen.

He was trying to get his disciples to understand. And then just a few days later, a little while later, Jesus himself was taken by the soldiers and he was crucified, publicly for all to see. Humiliated. Shamed. In front of everyone.

It was only after he was resurrected from the dead, it was after he appeared to his disciples, it was after they received the gift of the holy spirit, that they became emboldened with this understanding and they finally seemed to get it, God's kingdom is not of this earth, it is somewhere else. Most of them went on to live very courageous lives of faith and they went out preaching, teaching, healing, and doing all kinds of wonders. And many of them were martyred themselves. They died persecuted and alone.

In the first through third centuries of the church, you had the church on one side and the empire on the other. When you joined the church through the process of discipleship, repentance, communion, baptism, you knew that you were standing in opposition to this empire. You knew that because you had a membership in the church, there was a good chance you would be persecuted and maybe even killed by the empire.

In the fourth century Constantine became emperor of Rome and he became a Christian and decided to Christianize Rome. Creating something Jesus had been fighting against from the beginning.

Biblically there is no such thing as a Christian empire.

It doesn't exist.

Jesus did not come to establish a worldly empire, but Constantine created one in the fourth century.

So in the fifth century we had a challenge and a problem because here was this Christian entity doing many of the same things that worldly empires were doing, which was going to war. Now, a plain text reading of the gospels doesn't allow that. So we needed someone like Saint Augustine to come in and do some theological gymnastics for us.


And come up with a just war theory.

This justified why the Christian empire could go out and engage in the act of war, like the world was doing.

Now, over the centuries, the just war theory morphed into the crusades. The crusades became about expanding the empire as well as about protecting Jerusalem.

And then it was in the 13th century, the late 1300s or 1400s, we see in the writings of the papal bulls the introduction of a new category of other called “infidels” primarily used in reference to Muslims, or the moors, and later applied to indigenous peoples.

What the introduction of the category “infidels” did, was now you could go to war based on your theological grounds. You were fighting the other.

So it was in 1452 that Pope Nicholas v wrote the words, “invaded, search out, capture, vanquish and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever...reduce their persons to perpetual slavery…Convert them to his and your use and profit.”

This papal bull, along with others written between 1452 and 1493, collectively became known as the doctrine of discovery.

The doctrine of discovery is essentially the church in Europe saying to the nations of Europe “wherever you go, whatever lands you find not ruled by Christian rulers, those people are less than human and the land is yours for the taking.”

This was the doctrine that allowed European nations to go into Africa, colonize the continent and enslave the African people. They weren't human. This was the same doctrine that let Columbus, who was lost at sea, land in a new world that was already inhabited by millions and claim to have discovered it.

If you think about it, you cannot discover lands that are already inhabited.



If you don't believe me, leave your cell phones, car keys and laptops in front of you. I and some of us (natives) will come by and discover them for you.


It's not discovery, it's stealing. It's conquering and colonizing.

The fact that to this day our nation refers to what Columbus did as “discovery” reveals the implicit racial bias of our country, which is indigenous peoples are not fully human.

This makes the doctrine of discovery a systemically racist doctrine that is the direct result of the church getting into bed with the empire.
Of the church trying to create something Jesus fought against his entire ministry, which was a Christian empire. The fruit of that prostitution is the doctrine of discovery.

Now, the challenge of this doctrine is that it has become embedded into the foundations of our nation. So our Declaration of Independence, which boldly claims all men are created equal, 30 lines later refers to natives as “merciless Indian savages.”

In the actual declaration.

Making it clear the only reason our founding fathers used the inclusive term “all men” is because they had a very narrow definition of who was and who was not human.

A few years later, our founding fathers later wrote another document. They began that document with the words “We the people…in order to perform a more perfect union…”

This of course is the preamble to the constitution. However, article 1, section 2, of the constitution. The section of the constitution that refers to who is and who is not included, who is covered, who is not covered by this constitution, a) it never mentions women; b) it specifically excludes natives; and c) it counts Africans as 3/5th of a person.

So “we the people” literally means what?

White land-owning men.

We have to wrap our heads around that. The purpose of the constitution is to protect white land-owning men.

So today, women earn 70 cents to the dollar. That should not surprise us.

The constitution is working.

Today our prisons are filled with people of color. That should not shock us.

The constitution is working.

In 2010, the united states supreme court sided with citizens united and ruled that corporations now have the same rights to political free speech as individuals, creating the door for Super-PACs. That should not shock us.

The constitution is doing what it was designed to do. Protecting the interests of white land-owning men.

Now maybe you're saying, “wait, didn't we correct that?”

In 1868, about 100 years later, we passed the 14th amendment. This was the amendment that was meant to address article 1, section 2. It extended the right of citizenship to those who were born on this continent under the jurisdiction of the government.
However, this did not give women the right to vote. You didn't get that until 1920 with women's suffrage.

It didn't include natives. We weren't even citizens yet, and even when we became citizens in 1924, many of our tribes in the southwest here didn't get the right to vote until 1948.

Jim crow laws were still written after the 14th amendment.

So while it extended some rights of citizenship to a few former male slaves, the 14th amendment still excluded huge portions of our population. And we forget that it was in 1973 the same amendment, the 14th amendment, was used in roe versus wade, which now concluded unborn babies weren't human and therefore they could be aborted.

What this means is that, at the heart of our constitution is not a value for life. Based on the doctrine of discovery, the value is for exploitation and profit, and the practice is dehumanization. The constitution assumes the white land-owning male has the authority to decide who is and who is not human.

In 1823 we had a supreme court case, Johnson versus M’Intosh, two men of European descent litigating over a single piece of land. One got the land from a native tribe, the other, from the government. They wanted to know who owned it. The case goes all the way to the supreme court. The court had to decide the principle upon which land titles were based.

They determined the principle for land titles was discovery.

And then they used the doctrine of discovery to determine that natives who were here first, but are less than human, only had the right of occupancy to the land, like a fish occupies water or a bird occupies air, and Europeans had the right of discovery to the land and therefore the true title to it.

This case, along with a few others during the Marshall court era, created the legal precedent for land titles.

This precedent and the doctrine of discovery was referenced by the supreme court as recently as 2005.

The United States of America never has been, is not currently, nor will it ever be, Christian.

There is no such thing as a Christian empire.

God is at work through the church, not the empire.

God is at work through his people, through his disciples, through his followers, not through the empire.

Jesus did not come to establish a worldly empire. And yet so many of us think as Americans that we live in a Christian nation.

The united states of America is not currently, never has been, nor will it ever be Christian.

I want to do a critique of the past year anda half of our lives.
Lest you think I’m partisan, I want to start with this.

A year ago, in his final state of the union, President Obama quoted the constitution. He was talking about our need for a new politics and he said “’we, the people.' we've come to acknowledge that means all of us.” I heard him say that and I thought that sounds beautiful, but I don't think we've ever decided that. At least I didn't get that memo.

That seems to be the debate we had this past election cycle.

Donald trump seemed very clear on who “we the people” included or didn't include. It did not include women, it did not include Muslims, and it did not include immigrants from the south.

He was quite clear.

The challenge with Donald Trump is he understands well what made America “great”, which was explicit and systemic racism, and he was not afraid to champion that again.

Now, the challenge was Hillary is not his antithesis.

Donald said “make America great again.”

What did Hillary say?

“America is great already. We've always been great. America is great because we're good.”

So, what do they agree on?

They agree that our past, our history, our foundations are great.

At the democratic national convention, Cory Booker, an African American senator from New Jersey, in his speech endorsing Hillary Trump (sic) from the platform of the democratic convention -- Hillary Clinton, sorry.


You'll see why I get them confused in a moment.


He acknowledged in his speech the word “savages” in the declaration. He acknowledged in his speech the 3/5th compromise in the constitution. He acknowledged women were excluded and he acknowledged natives were excluded, but he bookended that section of his speech by saying our founders are geniuses and our foundations are great.

Corey, you can't say that, unless your definition of great is racist.

The dialogue we had this last election season was not a racist/anti-racist dialogue. The conversation we had was, do we want Donald Trump to champion racism as our explicit value, or do we want Hillary to work to keep racism implicit?

And we voted, the church voted, overwhelmingly for explicit racism.

60% of white Catholics, 54% of all Catholics, 81% of white evangelicals.

Donald trump bragged about a year ago, that he could stand in the middle of fifth avenue and shoot somebody and not lose a single supporter. Five weeks ago, he revealed that he believes his power and prestige gives him the authority and right to assault women.

I don't think he lost a vote.

I don't think he lost a vote.

I'm not troubled by what the nation did. Donald trump represents the values of America. He understands the doctrine of discovery and he ran with explicit racism at the heart of his campaign.

I'm troubled by the church. Who overwhelmingly supported him.


How did he get our votes?

First, he said he was pro-life.

I'm an avid pro-life advocate. I gave a speech in college on my pro-life views, and I got chewed up and spit out. What I realized is that I didn't know how to articulate my value for pro-life without demonizing and putting those who had abortions or who were contemplating them into this category of “other”, and dehumanizing them and talking about them horribly. I also realized the pro-life movement largely was not pro-life, they were pro-issue. And I didn't want to be identified with them, so I quit speaking publicly about my pro-life views until I could figure out how to articulate it in a way that would communicate a value for all life.

When I understood the 14th amendment, when I understood the influence of the doctrine of discovery on the constitution, you heard my pro-life argument in my discourse about the constitution. I lay that argument out everywhere I go. Secular, religious, conservative, liberal, I lay that argument out everywhere I go.

I get push back on a lot of things I say.

No one has ever pushed back on my pro-life argument.


Donald trump is not pro-life.

You cannot assault women and be pro-life. You cannot call Mexicans rapists and murderers and be pro-life. You cannot say the things he says and be pro-life.

He is not pro-life. And he played the church like a fiddle.

What's the other reason we voted for him?

We wanted him to protect our religious liberties.

But what did Jesus say?

Expect persecution.

I didn't come here to create a Christian empire.

You will be dragged into jail, you will be put in front of courts, you are going to be facing judges.

You are going to be facing rulers, and don't even worry about what you'll say because I will give you the wisdom in that moment.

Jesus pleaded to his disciples before he died, he said do not fight for your own religious liberty. When peter pulled out a sword, Jesus rebuked him.

The church has no business voting for someone with the viewpoints that Donald has merely because we think he will protect our religious liberties.

We threw women, we threw immigrants, Muslims, we threw so many people under the bus just so the church could feel a little more safe.

I weep.

I mourn.

I lament.

There is no such thing as a Christian empire. The United States of America never has been, is not currently, nor will it ever be Christian.

As a church, we need to do some soul searching.

As the body of Christ, we need to ask ourselves -- and we need to read this passage from Luke again and again and again and ask ourselves are we willing to do that?

We need to remember our hope, our kingdom, what we're working towards, is not of this earth. We are living for something else.

Something so much greater.

Something so much more beautiful.

Something so much more lasting.

And we aren't going to find it in a Christian empire.

Thank you, my brothers and sisters.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Happy Belated Constitution Day

Friday, September 16, was Constitution Day. While I am deeply grateful that we are governed by a Constitutional government, I'm also convinced that our current Constitution has been influenced by the Doctrine of Discovery and, therefore, has some deeply embedded flaws that need foundational level changes.

The Constitution begins with the inclusive words "We the People," but Article I Section II, the section which lays out who "We the people" actually refers to, never mentions women, specifically excludes Natives and counts African Slaves as 3/5th human.  Article I, Section II of the United States Constitution demonstrates that this document was written to protect the rights and interests of white, land owning men.

And even the 14th Amendment that was passed July 28, 1868 to address those omissions, did not fix it.  The 14th Amendment extended the right of citizenship to anyone born in this land and under the jurisdiction of the government. However, women were still disenfranchised and did not receive the right to vote until Women's Suffrage in 1920. And even after Natives became citizens through the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, many of our people did not receive the right to vote until 1948. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Problem with the Dakota Access Pipeline

Friday September 9th was a roller coaster. When Judge James Boasberg issued his ruling against the injunction filed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and allowed construction to continue on the Dakota Access Pipeline across the Missouri River, Native people and other protesters throughout Indian country felt like we had just been punched in the gut.

However, only a little while later word began to circulate about a joint statement issued by the Departments of Justice, Army, and the Interior. President Obama, apparently, had organized a partial concession to the injunction, temporarily halting construction, and committing the US Army Corps of Engineers to determine if they needed to reconsider the access granted to the pipeline.

Just two days earlier, when asked about the Standing Rock Sioux and the Dakota Access Pipeline by a foreign journalist, President Obama seemed clueless regarding the details of what was happening on the very reservation he visited just two years earlier.  Could he have really gotten up to speed, organized a multi-agency reversal, and got them to respond that quickly?

At about 3 PM EDT, Judge James Boasberg issued his ruling on the injunction requested in the lawsuit. He expressed an awareness of the historical injustices against Native peoples by stating, “Since the founding of this nation, the United States’ relationship with the Indian tribes has been contentious and tragic. America’s expansionist impulse in its formative years led to the removal and relocation of many tribes, often by treaty but also by force.” But he went on to rule in favor of Dakota Access Pipeline and the US Army Corp of Engineers and allowed the construction of the pipeline to continue.

How could this happen? How could a judge acknowledge that his nation’s history against Natives has been contentious, tragic, biased, and unjust, and then immediately turn around and once again rule against us by trampling our rights and allowing for the destruction of our sacred sites?

We have a deep rooted and systemic problem in this country and the fruit of this problem results in Judges like James Boasberg acknowledging the historical oppression and unjust history against Native Americans, but ultimately perpetuating that system by ruling in favor of a multi-billion-dollar pipeline that is careening its way through Turtle Island. Approving the project of a for-profit company that is laying waste to sacred sites of Native tribes, threatening waterways of many communities, and granting eminent domain to grab land throughout the state of Iowa.

But the pipeline is not the problem. The greedy executives and shareholders of Energy Transfer (parent company of Dakota Access Pipeline) are not the problem. And Judge Boasberg is not the problem.  I'm not saying they are not complicit to the problem. Nor am I saying they are not guilty of exploiting the problem. Because they definitely are, on both counts. But they are not the root of the problem.

The problem is the Constitution of the United States of America.

If that sounds crazy and you feel tempted to stop reading, don't. It's unfortunately very true and actually quite simple to explain.

The Constitution, like most of the founding documents of the United States, has been deeply influenced by what is called the Doctrine of Discovery.  The Doctrine of Discovery is a series of Papal Bulls (official edicts of the Catholic Church) written in the 1400's. They are essentially the church in Europe saying to the nations of Europe, wherever you go, and whatever lands you find not ruled by Christian rules, those people are less than human and the land is yours for the taking.

This was the doctrine that allowed European nations to colonize the continent of Africa and enslave the African people. Because they saw them as less than human. It was also this doctrine that allowed Columbus, who was lost at sea, to land in a New World that was already inhabited by millions of people and claim to have "discovered" it.

You cannot discover lands that are already inhabited. That process is known as conquering, colonizing, or stealing. The fact that the United States teaches what Columbus did as discovery reveals the implicit racial bias of the country; that Native Americans are less than human.

The influence of the Doctrine of Discovery is so deep that the Declaration of Independence, 30 lines below the statement "All men are created equal" refers to natives as "merciless Indian Savages." Making it abundantly clear that the only reason the founding fathers used the inclusive language "All men" is because they had a very narrow definition of who was actually human.

The Constitution of the United States begins with the inclusive words "We the people" but then quickly, in Article I Section II, very narrowly defines who "we the people" actually refers to. It never mentions women, specifically excludes Natives, and counts African slaves as 3/5th of a person. Article I, Section II of the United States Constitution demonstrates that this document was written to protect the rights and interests of white, land owning men!

In the 1823 Supreme Court Case Johnson v M'Intosh, two men of European descent were litigating over a single piece of land. One received the land from the Government, and the other acquired it from a Native tribe. They wanted to know who actually owned it. In deciding the case SCOTUS needed to determine the principle basis for land titles. They decided that the basis was discovery. Which should mean title to the land belonged to the Native tribes. But then SCOTUS used the Doctrine of Discovery to conclude that Natives only had the right of occupancy to land (like a fish occupies water or a bird occupies air), while Europeans had the right of discovery to the land and therefore the true title to it.

This case used the Doctrine of Discovery as a legal instrument to help establish the legal precedent for land titles.  This precedent and the Doctrine of Discovery was referenced by SCOTUS as recently as 2005 (City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York).

The Constitution was NOT written to give justice to natives and other minorities. And this is evident in many of the issues plaguing our nation today.

Women earn 70 cents to the dollar. Why? The constitution is working.

US prisons are filled with people of color. Why? The Constitution is working.

In 2010 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled for Citizens United and declared that corporations have the same rights to political free speech as individuals, opening the door to unlimited financial political contributions. Why? The Constitution of the United States of America is working. It is protecting the interests of white, land owning men.

What this means is that US Courts and the United States judicial system is not the arena for people of color, especially Natives and African Americans, to seek justice. The Constitution, which is the basis of all US law, was not written to protect us. Therefore, the primary way we (minorities) receive justice from this racist legal system is almost entirely based on the whim of the judge, or in the case of Dakota Access Pipeline, the benevolence of the President.

A few minutes after Judge Boasberg delivered his ruling in favor of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army, and the Department of the Interior issued a joint statement partially conceding to the injunction filed against the US Army Corp of Engineers; that they did NOT properly consult the tribes regarding their lands and therefore construction needed to be temporarily halted while the determination is made if the permits need to be reconsidered. Here is a quote from that statement:
"The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws. Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time."
Was this a victory? Had months of prayers, protests, marches, speeches, petitions and demonstrations finally had paid off?

Yes, I believe they had. But the victory was not quite as clear as many of us wanted to believe.

First of all, the US Army Corp of Engineers, the entity the case was brought against, only has jurisdiction of the waterways and lands extending 350 feet on either side of the waterways. This is the justification that Judge Boasberg gave for giving a split judgement in the Emergency Hearing on Monday, September 6th. Because of this limited jurisdiction, the joint statement went on to acknowledge that the government could only halt construction bordering and under Lake Oahe. The agencies had to ask Dakota Access Pipeline to voluntarily halt construction beyond their jurisdiction.
"Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time...In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe."
Second, the joint statement only commits to halt construction until the Army determines “if it needs to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws.” It does not ultimately deny or revoke the Dakota Access Pipeline, in fact it doesn’t even guarantee that it will reconsider previous decisions. It only commits to a process of determining if it need to reconsider. Thus, the halt on construction is both flimsy and temporary, while the Corps moves "expeditiously" to make a determination.

Third, the joint statement does not specifically commit the agencies to consulting with tribes regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline. It only commits them to determining if they need to reconsider previous decisions.

Finally, and I believe this was the best news of the day. The joint statement acknowledged that what happened to the Standing Rock Sioux is part of a broader systemic problem and it proposed a process to address the broken system.
“Furthermore, this case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.  Therefore, this fall, we will invite tribes to formal, government-to-government consultations on two questions:  (1) within the existing statutory framework, what should the federal government do to better ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related reviews and decisions and the protection of tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights; and (2) should new legislation be proposed to Congress to alter that statutory framework and promote those goals.”
This is the good news. The broken, foundational, statutory frameworks of this country are the problem. The racism embedded in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the legal precedents of the Supreme Court are the problem.

Currently, the primary way Natives, and other minorities, get justice in this systemically racist system is entirely based on the whim of the judge, or in the case of Dakota Access Pipeline, the benevolence of the President.

Photo by Kris J Eden
On Friday, Sept. 9, 2016 the United States judicial system worked the way it was designed to; Judge Boasberg and the US District Court in Washington DC protected the rights of white, land owning men. But President Obama intervened. He overrode the system and gave some justice to a group of people the Constitution of the United States was not written to protect - Native Tribes.

But he didn’t stop there. He acknowledged what we (Natives) have known for a long time. Our tribes cannot live alongside or participate with a government that was specifically to designed to dehumanize, colonize, and ultimately destroy us, until we make changes to the foundations of that government.

My relatives, this is the battle. This is the beginning of the change we need.  The struggle is far from over. There is still a long, hard, and uncertain road ahead. But the light at the end of this tunnel is slowly getting brighter and is beginning to make the path before us a little clearer.

Pray for the wisdom of our tribal leaders. Pray for a post-colonial posture at that table this fall. And pray for the endurance of our Native people.

Water is life. It is more important than wealth. It is more valuable than oil. And we (Natives) need to take our seat at the table and instruct this nation of immigrants in what it means to value life and live sustainably here on Turtle Island. And that includes pointing out and addressing the racist foundations the United States of America is built upon.

Mark Charles

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

#NoDAPL Struggle Continues - Split Ruling on Restraining Order against Dakota Access Pipeline

This week I had the opportunity to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline by attending an emergency hearing in US District Court in Washington DC.

A few weeks ago I published a summary of this legal struggle which you can read here. This weekend the matter became both more pressing and violent. On Friday the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe submitted papers to the court identifying several locations along the pipeline route as home to significant native artifacts and sacred sites. One of these sites was about 2 miles west of the Missouri river, on the west side of Road 1806. Most of the protests have taken place in the space east of 1806, between that road and the river.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Original Environmentalists Protest Short Sighted Economic Policies of the United States

Map of Dakota Access Pipeline route
The Dakota Access Pipeline is a proposed 1,100-mile pipeline that will be used to carry over a half-million barrels of crude oil per day from northwest North Dakota to southern Illinois, across four states.

Since 2014, after first learning about this project, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has actively opposed the permitting and construction of this pipeline, voicing their concerns to the company, the Federal Government, the United States Congress, and the State. Finally, the tribe filed litigation in federal court in the District of Columbia to challenge the actions of the Corps of Engineers regarding the Dakota Access pipeline.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe: Background on the Dakota Access Pipeline

Background Statement on Dakota Access Pipeline from Standing Rock Sioux Tribe:

The Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation is home to Dakota and Lakota people of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Since time immemorial, they have lived and governed a vast territory throughout North and South Dakota, and parts of Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska. Currently, the Tribe is located in central North and South Dakota.

Despite strong objections from the Tribe from the first time they heard of the project, on July 25, 2016, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers granted authorization to the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross Lake Oahe as part of the construction of a 1,100 mile pipeline that is proposed to carry over a half-million barrels of Bakken crude oil to Illinois and across four states.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Problem the Republican Party, and now the Nation, has with Donald Trump

The challenge with Donald Trump is that he understands all too well what made America “great.” And this has presented a problem for the Republican Party and now, with his nomination, will cause a problem for the entire country. America's “greatness” is based on explicit, systemic, and dehumanizing racism.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Truth about Abraham Lincoln, #NativeLivesMatter, #BlackLivesMatter

Most people thanked me. Several people shook my hand in appreciation. And one person even gave me a hug.

Like most Americans I spent last weekend trying to process the events of the previous week. A week which saw the tragedies of #AltonSterling, #PhilandoCastile and #DallasPolice. Throughout the country there were #BlackLivesMatter protests, prayer gatherings, candlelight vigils and healing events between police departments and the communities they serve. Most gatherings were peaceful, although a few became violent. And everywhere emotions ran high.

But as a Native man, I wasn't sure where to go.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Declaration of Independence. It's not what you think.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness..."

Most Americans, and probably a good number of global citizens, can quote the above section of the Declaration of Independence.  But I doubt many can recall much of what comes after that or the historical context from which it was written.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Native Perspective: What's Behind Donald Trump's Response to Global Warming

In the past year Donald Trump has proposed the building of two different walls. The nation is well versed on the first wall. It's a big one, along our southern border, to be paid for by Mexico, because, as he outlined in his rambling Presidential campaign announcement speech last June, “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pentecost - A Native perspective on Acts 2

The Pentecost story in Acts is a beautiful display of God's value for multi-culturalism and diversity. In Acts 2, God faced a challenge. His son had been crucified, was risen from the dead and ascended into heaven. And God wanted the world to know about it. At that time there were people from all over the known world in Jerusalem. The problem was, they all spoke different languages. If everyone was to hear the Good News the language problem needed to be solved. Now I assume, for the Creator of the Universe, performing one miracle is no more difficult than performing another miracle. So God literally had a choice to make. He could have either allowed everyone in Jerusalem to speak Greek or Hebrew, or he could allow his disciples to speak the languages of the nations. Either miracle would have solved the language problem. So we can assume that God made his choice based on the values he wanted to instill in this new body of believers.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Native Response to Hillary Clinton's "Off The Reservation" Comment

On Friday April 29, in response to a CNN interview question regarding the expected political and personal attacks from Donald Trump in a general election, Hillary Clinton stated that she has experience dealing with men who sometimes get "off the reservation..."

"Off the reservation" is a term deeply rooted in the implicit racial bias of the United States of America. Reservations are federal lands where Native peoples were herded before and after the "Indian Removal Act" passed by the United States Congress in 1830. Reservations are where our people were moved to during forced relocation like the "Trail of Tears" (Cherokee) and the "Long Walk" (Navajo). Reservations are not owned by Native people or tribes. Instead, they are lands held in trust for us by the United States Federal Government because we only have the right of occupancy to the land, whereas White Europeans have the right of Discovery and, therefore, the true title to the land.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Doctrine of Discovery: We Don't Talk About That

A version of this article was originally published in Comment Magazine, Winter 2015.

In the summer of 2003 I moved with my family back to Dineteh, the land of my father's ancestors- located in the Southwest United States between Mount Blanca, Mount Taylor, San Francisco Peaks and Mount Hesperus. Today this land is better known as the Navajo Reservation.

I was born in this area, in a hospital located in a mission compound alongside an Indian Boarding school. When you pass through the tunnel leading to the campus of this mission to the Navajo and Zuni people you are greeted by a large sign which reads "...Now the LORD has given us room. We shall flourish in the land. Gen. 26:22"

Thursday, March 17, 2016

An Invitation to Risk

The first time I spoke publicly about a vision for a national Truth (and Conciliation) Commission in response to the Doctrine of Discovery and the buried unjust history of the United States was back in early 2015. I had just written a blog article titled "The Doctrine of Discovery- A Buried Apology and an Empty Chair." This article laid out specifically what the Doctrine of Discovery is, how it influenced the very foundations of our nation, and exposed the unjust and violent history that resulted from it. It also deconstructed American exceptionalism and articulated a vision for a national dialogue on race, a Truth Commission. While this article did not go viral, it did get an incredibly wide reading and was liked, shared, republished, linked to and referenced hundreds, even thousands of times.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Why I didn't take Communion at Urbana 2015

As I sat waiting for the Communion elements to be distributed at the Urbana 2015 Missions Conference I began to do what both Jesus and Paul exhort Christians to do: examine ourselves. In 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, Paul warns the church in Corinth about their practice of taking communion. There are divisions among them. They are not waiting or showing concern for each other. Some are going hungry while others are getting drunk. They are forgetting the significance of the Lord's supper and, therefore, are eating and drinking judgement upon themselves.  Likewise, in the book of Matthew, Jesus warns his followers that if they are offering their gift at the alter and remember that their brother has something against them, they are to leave their gift, go first and be reconciled, and then return to make their offering.