Enric Marti/AP
Nuns and faithful wave to Pope Francis as he makes his way on the popemobile to Mexico City's main square, the Zocalo, on February 13, 2016.

Apaches to Pope Francis: Recognize the History of Genocide


The following is a statement from the Apache Ndé Nneé Working Group, the Apache Nation and the Coalition for Apache Ndé Nneé Justice pertaining to Pope Francis’ tour currently crossing Apache Ndé Nneé territory.

Pope Francis is currently proceeding on his official tour through the unceded Apache Ndé Nneé territory beyond borders. The Apache Ndé Nneé Working Group has issued an official statement demanding that the Pope must recognize he is advancing on his tour without the express free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of the sovereign Apache Ndé Nneé peoples. This action is in violation of indigenous laws, governance, and justice frameworks and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Working Group demands the Pope, as the world representative of the Catholic Church, immediately redirect his behavior to the minimal international principles. His current behavior is a negative reflection of the Holy See’s continuing process of on-going, present-day denial of the genocidal violence against ancestral and present-day Ndé Nneé intergenerational survivors of the destructive campaigns by the Holy See against non-surrendering Indigenous sovereigns.

The Apache Ndé Nneé Working Group calls on the Pope to disrupt his colonialist and paternalistic behavior in Mexico in the Indigenous territories therein, and to hold himself accountable for his ‘tour’ in the unceded Ndé Nneé territory. This continuing disrespect to Indigenous Peoples is an enactment of blatant Eurocentric practice in the Americas which is, at the core, the general spirit of non-recognition which underlies on-going genocidal process in the Americas. By not respecting the protocols of Indigenous Peoples in unceded territories, the Pope is continuing to model business as usual, in other words, the continuation of the Doctrine of Discovery which has subjugated and dehumanized Indigenous Peoples’ sovereignty beneath that of Europeans. This ongoing violation has placed Indigenous Peoples in a position of inferiority through normalizing the ‘victim’ identity of Indigenous Peoples under the States’ rubrics of ‘minorities’ and ‘ethnic groups’ – this is regressive and unacceptable. Such behavior propagates the legal fiction of conquest, which maintains the aggressive and destructive status quo of rape, pillage, and subjugation in Indigenous unceded territories today.

RELATED: Pope In Mexico: Asks Indigenous for Forgiveness

The Holy See’s continuing pattern of erasure and paternalism through the Pope’s avoidance of this crucial rupture between Indigenous Peoples and Eurocentric ideology turned into policy works to mesmerize the masses into performing rituals that re-colonize Indigenous Peoples into obedience and complicity in this masquerade.

The Working Group demands that the Holy See be held accountable for its role in committing genocide against Indigenous Peoples, and that it must repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery and effects and legacy of the Inter Caetera. The Holy See’s ongoing assimilationist policies are represented by the Pope’s travels through Indigenous lands, as he ‘tours’ without respect to the Ndé Nneé protocols of formal, proper recognition to non-federal and federal Apache Peoples alike.

The continuing cover-up of the Church’s denial and its continuing refusal to meet face-to-face in diplomatic meetings with Ndé Nneé Peoples are deliberate avoidance tactics used to obscure the underlying capitalist and profit-centered interests of the Holy See – a large property owner in the Americas. The tactics are being used to obscure the complex ways in which the current-day Church works towards managing Indigenous Peoples’ discontent and increasing rejection of Church doctrine.

“Pope Francis is out of touch with actual realities and the diverse ways Indigenous Peoples, and especially the Apache Ndé Nneé Peoples, are engaging in processes of decolonization and interrogation of the ways in which the Holy See. The Church has threatened the status of Indigenous Peoples’ self-determination through advancing the asymmetrical economic and political power relationship underlying the Holy See’s and Euro-settlers’ theft of Indigenous Peoples’ inherent sovereign right to self-rule.”

The Pope’s visit is perpetuating centuries of violations against Apache Ndé women, families, land, sacred traditions and self-determination through the illegal invasion of the Holy See and its and legal-political European kingdoms and settler-State allies via the Inter Caetera and its legacy.

In November 2015 the Apache Ndé Nneé Working Group submitted to the UN CERD (Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination) that the Holy See’s Inter Caetera and the resulting Doctrine of Discovery and theft and murder of Apache Ndé Nneé lands, families, resources, sacredness and life itself was, and continues to be in its legacy, racist and genocidal. The UN CERD Committee has in response supported that the Holy See must meet with Indigenous Peoples about these matters raised, including to address “the current legacy and effects of the Doctrine of Discovery endorsed in the Inter Caetera from 1493 and its related papal bulls, as well as other issues”.

“That the Pope continues to violate Apache Ndé Nneé self-determination and sacredness by entering our lands and peoples without seeking Apache Ndé Nneé consent, or offering to meet about the above issues as per recent UN CERD findings, is the ultimate show of disrespect to the Apache Ndé as a People and Nation.”

“We will not tolerate the Catholic Church’s continued rape of our rights to self-determination, decision-making, sacredness of our women and own lands and being.”

Entering the territory of the Apache Ndé, and at this very time following UN CERD findings, is a calculated step by Pope Francis and the Catholic Church to undermine the Apache Ndé Nneé as equals in the world society; in essence, little has changed. This violation of our spirits reeks of ongoing genocide against the Apache Ndé People.

Yet, the Pope’s presence, at the same time, means nothing to us; his patronizing, paternalistic actions are, simply put, merely psychological war games of the Church; “Where is Pope Francis on the extreme human rights violations in Ndé Nneé peoples in the shadow of the gulag Border Wall? The abuse of Ndé Nneé peoples’ rights to FPIC with regard to Rio Tinto and Oak Flat?”

We hold fast to the formation of a Truth Commission regarding the Holy See’s legacy of rape and historical violations of our people as the only way to actual reparations.

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Old Lady's picture
Old Lady
Submitted by Old Lady on
The Catholic church has to be one of the most corrupt organizations ever to pollute the Earth. There are many good people in the rank and file, but their leaders have covered up horrible crimes for centuries. The guilty parties will have their time on Judgment Day, but until then it might be wise to simply avoid that church and its leaders altogether. Even if some mea culpa is issued, how sincere would it be really?

timoteo's picture
Submitted by timoteo on
I will study this and I am glad the Apache are taking some form of action. This situation has been a personal research project that I have been working on and off in between my actual education. It is time for healing!

WriterSue's picture
Submitted by WriterSue on
Powerful and beautifully written. However, trespassing on Native American land has been done for centuries by all of us non-Natives and will not likely end soon. I have always deeply admired the entire history and culture of the remarkable, strong Indians who laid the cornerstone of this nation. Instead of treating indigenous peoples like confused visitors who fail to "blend in" or who have no idea of what is best for themselves, how about the novel approach of actually asking Native American leaders what THEY want and feel is in the best interests of THEIR people? Honoring established treaties would be nice, too. The Indian culture must never be lost or even diluted for that would create a permanent hole in the soul of this country.