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The Holy See’s Destructive Legacy of Deprimantur

Steven Newcomb
4/8/13

Pope Francis—Jorge Mario Bergoglio—is 76 years old. He is the first pope from Latin America, the first Jesuit pope, and the first pope of our time not born in Europe. He is from Argentina, a region of the world colonized by the Spanish crown in the early 16th century on the basis of destructive papal documents issued by the Holy See in 1493. Brazil is a region of South America first colonized by the Portuguese crown on the basis of other such papal documents dating back to 1452.

One day in the Spring of 1992, I was inspired by the idea of calling upon Pope John Paul II to formally revoke the Inter Caetera papal bull of May 4, 1493. Shortly thereafter, at the Peace and the Planet conference in Eugene, Oregon, I met Birgil Kills Straight, a traditional headman of the Oglala Lakota Nation. He immediately understood the magnitude of my idea. He made plans for me to accompany him and Oglala singer Jackie Bird on a speaking tour in northern Italy that Fall. Now, twenty one years later, the campaign that we began on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s first voyage is a global movement.

In September of 1992, I carried the idea of our campaign to Yelm, Washington, to inform the Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth of my decade of research into the connection between the fifteenth century papal bulls and U.S. federal Indian law and policy.

Based on my self-published pamphlet “Pagans in the Promised Land,” Onondaga Faithkeeper Oren Lyons and I, and a couple of other people, sat up until 3:00 in the morning, drafting a document on “the Christian Nations Theory of federal Indian law.” That document was then sent to Senator Inouye of Hawai’i. As Oren Lyons reminded everyone at the recent North American Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus gathering at Sycuan in the Kumeyaay territory, the Circle of Indian Elders and Youth never did receive a response to that document.

That Fall, in 1992, Birgil and I went on the first of many speaking tours in Italy and elsewhere in the world. In Italy, the Italian people gave us a warm reception wherever we went. We publicized our call upon the pope to formally revoke the Inter Caetera papal bull of 1493 because it called for “barbarous” (i.e., non-Christian) “nations” to be “depressed” (deprimantur), meaning subjugated, overthrown, crushed, and dominated. Our originally free and independent nations and peoples have been suffering from the resulting symptoms of depression ever since.

In 1996, Father Perzywozni invited Birgil to the Italian town of Assissi to attend a gathering of eminent scholars to develop a preamble to the Earth Charter. Birgil arrived there with a brief essay he had written, explaining that the Oglalas, through ceremony, still communicate with animals as St. Francis is said to have done. Ironically, Father Perzywozni argued against Birgil’s document. It was at that gathering in Assissi that Birgil also said it was high time to reject the idea of God’s “command” to “subdue” the Earth, and “exercise dominion” over (or "dominate") all living things.

On the last day of the event in Assissi, we attended a reception where many of the highest level Vatican officials were in attendance. A monk in a grey robe approached Birgil and told him that his friend was the pope’s "white magician" who performs "magic" to protect the pope prior to his travels. We found this information to be quite odd. Why would the Pope need a magician to protect him?

Several years later, in October 2000, I traveled to Rome to be part of a small delegation of Indigenous Peoples’ representatives to dialogue with the Vatican about the papal bull. In a moment of spontaneity I carried a copy of the papal bull Inter Caetera up the steps of St. Peter’s Cathedral, and handed it to the Swiss Guard. Doing so was intended to return to the Holy See one of the subjugating documents that the papacy had issued against our nations and peoples.

Now, in 2013, the planet has entered what the Mayan people say is a new Era. Accordingly, we must renew our call upon the Holy See, now occupied by Pope Francis, to explicitly repudiate the paradigm of domination that the Holy See (commonly known as ‘the Vatican’) set into motion with papal documents issued in 1452, 1455, 1456, 1481, 1493, 1506, and 1514 that called for the Christian invasion of the non-Christian world. The year 2014 will be the 500th year since Pope Leo X, in the papal bull “High Devotion” (Praecelsae Devotionis), “newly grant[ed] everything, all and singular, contained in the aforesaid letters,” and decreed that those documents “ought to be permanently valid.”

Next year, 2014, is also the year when a U.N. General Assembly High Level Plenary Meeting will take place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, which is the region of the traditional territories of the Algonquin speaking nations, such as the Lenape Nation. Leading up to and on that occasion we will continue to challenge the Holy See’s legacy of Christian Discovery and Domination.

Steven Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape) is co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, author of Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (Fulcrum, 2008), and the Indigenous and Kumeyaay Research Coordinator for the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation in the Kumeyaay territory (now commonly called "San Diego").

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Anonymous's picture
Another great piece by Steve Newcomb. I hope for the good of our people and the next 7 generations, that our people take heed and IDLE NO MORE!
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
In the past the Church had a purpose it build community, but today what is it that they do? Get rich ! With networking all humanitarians, can stop the Catholic church's practices, and its out dated doctrine. With its inevitable collapse of the core, from its sexually abnormal and unacceptable practices of the church and its priest, I foresee soon that it will self destruct. Having been so corrupted and distorted from its original course and Indigenous people biting at its heels, soon this organization is bound to collapse. Why did they select a Latin American pope? Well they had a choice black or brown they choose brown, because there are more brown people who support the church. If a teenager can invite 1000+ people to her party via Facebook, twitter...and internet. Why can't we get the word out that the Catholic church is wrong? Finished? Your right it is a new Era, prophecy reads that this is the last pope? Will he be the one to change and guide the people towards justice? What is the new age purpose for us all? As a people are we going to unite in unity for all of Humanity?
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
So, exactly what is it you are saying? That you had some influence on the decision of the new Pope.
Anonymous
Two Bears Growling's picture
We are not Pagan. We are the people of the Creator. Our religion outdates christianity by many thousands of years. We worship the Great Spirit, whom the Europeans called God. We have our rituals & they have theirs. Does it make whom we worship different? Not at all. Our people & other cultures throughout time have many names for what the Christians call God. That is all. Does our ways make us wrong? Not at all. Do their ways make them wrong ? Not in the least. Our rituals are different, but who we worship is not. Just the names for the Creator are different. We do not need others who do not believe as we do telling us what is right & wrong. We are all one people. Live in a good way, helping others each day that Man Above grants you. Bring your people pride by being respectful & living respectible, showing compassion, kindness & above all, may the life you live bring the Great Spirit praise.
Two Bears Growling
Anonymous's picture
agree
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
Tedious and self-promoting stuff. Tiresome, to say the least.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
" Do their ways make them wrong?" Absolutely, because their ways were about forcing everyone else to worship the way they did, and to take what they wanted with the justification that the original inhabitants were not worthy. The Christian religion has been one of the most destructive forces on earth. Why defend it?
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
I see that many readers miss the connection between the Christian/heathen distinction prescribed by the pope in the papal bulls subsequently interpreted by the US Supreme Court in the Marshall Trilogy to support the "plenary power of Congress" argument...penalizing Native Americans for our lack of belief in Christianity. We may be free to believe as we wish, but we are not free from religious discrimination by the US Congress and the US Supreme Court. Mr. Newcomb keeps the record straight.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
Yawn......
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
At the time of the Marshall Trilogy, the U.S. government continued to put a distance from "papist" ideas. The English, and then Americans, had their own Anglican and Calvinistic ideas about racism and needed no help from Spain and Catholicism. Why doesn't Mr. Newcomb explore English origins of racism instead of this repetitive charge against papal bulls? His scholarship is incomplete and redundant.
Anonymous

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