Evil Nearer to Home: Indigenous Genocide & Papal Apologies

Putin is not the only one who needs to apologize for atrocities past or present. 

“Pupils at Carlisle Indian Industrial School, Pennsylvania, c. 1900. From 1879 until 1918, over 10,000 Native American children from 140 tribes attended Carlisle.” Unknown photographer, unknown source. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons.

A headline today tells of how Pope Francis met yesterday with leaders of the first peoples of Canada and apologized for the atrocious treatment of indigenous children in Catholic schools of the past. Accounts of thousands of children being separated from their families and tribe, language and religion, and exported to church-run institutions make one’s blood boil.

Pope Francis promised to come to Canada some day and apologize anew on the land where these atrocities took place. He also joked that it probably won’t be in the winter.

Sadly, he kept mum about the Doctrine of Discovery scandal, that is the three papal bulls of the late fifteenth century delivered by two popes. These bulls gave a green light to European “Christian” kings and queens to go to lands where Christians did not rule. This included such places as Africa and the soon-to-be-opened-up “New Worlds” of the Americas and Pacific Islands, etc. Permission was granted to take whatever was wanted: slaves from African, and slaves and booty from other lands as well.

“Slavery in Brazil.” Painting by Johann Moritz Rugendas – Photo by Wilfredor of a painting under Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons.

I propose that the Vatican host a ritual in St. Peter’s Square where these evil documents—which entered American and, eventually, English jurisprudence—be publicly burned, denounced, and apologized for. (Maybe the originals might remain under glass in the Vatican museum, so we do not forget, and facsimiles could be burned.)

The evil and trauma of these schools—which were part of the United States landscape as well–has been passed down over generations of indigenous history. Psychologist Donna Schindler, lived among the Navajo for 25 years and told the story in an important book, Flying Horse: Stories of Healing the Soul Wound. 

“Pope apologizes for residential-school conduct of some members of Catholic Church” CBC News

Her book is described as “a song for the American soul” and “a collection of heart stories about historical trauma and offer a path toward healing for Natives and non-Natives alike.”  I was privileged to write a Foreward to that book.

The title Donna chose derives from a tomb at the first such school in the United States. The dead child was ten years old and we know nothing more about him.

See Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society.

 And D. Schindler, MD, Flying Horse: Stories of Healing the Soul Wound (Santa Ynez, Ca: Tribal Eye 2020)

To read a transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner image: “Depiction of the Sand Creek Massacre by Cheyenne eyewitness and artist Howling Wolf.” By Howling Wolf. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons.

Queries for Contemplation

What feelings arise in you when you learn more about the trauma that indigenous peoples have undergone often at the hand of religious institutions and representatives?  How do we learn from past evils and also tend those wounds and work together toward a fuller future?

Recommended Reading

Flying Horse: Stories of Healing the Soul Wound
By Donna Schindler, MD; Foreword by Matthew Fox

A white psychiatrist shares the truths she has learned about historical trauma in this book which has been called ‘prophetic’ by Reverend Matthew Fox. Starting with her childhood in South Texas and Bermuda, she takes us on a journey during which she had to confront her own racial biases and denial of the truth in order to work as a cross-cultural psychiatrist with a Maori mental health team in New Zealand, the Navajo Nation and California Native Americans.
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19 thoughts on “Evil Nearer to Home: Indigenous Genocide & Papal Apologies”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, You ask today in our Queries for Contemplation: “What feelings arise in you when you learn more about the trauma that indigenous peoples have undergone often at the hand of religious institutions and representatives?” Many feelings arise in me, such as: anger over the fact that they could even take a land that didn’t belong to them in the first place, that they could call them godless heathens, or believe that they were ignorant savages. Then I feel shame–ashamed to say I am an American (Named after the Italian, Amerigo Vespucci), and enraged by the way they treated children as is mentioned in Schindler’s book, Flying Horse: Stories of Healing the Soul Wound.

    “How do we learn from past evils and also tend those wounds and work together toward a fuller future?” First of all we have to help people to be open to looking critically at the past and asking questions like: When I studied American history it taught me about the wars with the Indians–why did they leave this part of history out? Why was nothing said about the way the children were treated as, Schindler writes. There are still “Indian
    Schools” such as “The Holbrook Seventh-day Adventist Indian School, in Holbrook, Arizona. I’m sure that this institution today cannot separate children from there parent, but they definitely attempt to take their native traditions from them and convert them into being Seventh-day Adventists. After that happens their people have lost another piece of their native traditions.

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      How shamefully blinded the dominant western “Christian” culture has been to believe there’s only one way to live!! Wake up…leave your “bubble” existence in dogmatic religious communities, to discover that greater truths live broadly among many cultures, peoples, religions…and test them by what the best of your religious tradition teaches re the way to live and treat others as any of us wants!

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    Thankfully the world is becoming more aware of the white man’s evils of the past, but also the evils that have undermined non white civilizations. But last night I was totally overwhelmed when I saw an interview of a young Ukrainian woman who was due to give birth in a few days in the hell hole where she lives. She herself was overwhelmed by the rape of another Ukrainian woman by two Russian soldiers after they had killed her husband. The soldiers raped her in front of her six year old son. She died and her young son’s hair turned white as a result of the trauma he has witnessed ……………………….

    We must talk and write about evil in the necessary attempt to expose it. But it seems to be undeterred as it continues to thrive on human sacrifice, devouring whom it may in Ukraine and around the world …………………………

    Despair is not an option…..

  3. Cynthia Greb

    Hey everyone. I live a couple hours away from the infamous Carlisle boarding school. A couple years ago I felt the strong need to go there to offer prayers. I went with a couple friends. We were following the GPS and made the last turn, only to discover ourselves in front of a barricade. Sadly, the cemetery is now on the grounds of the U.S. Army War College. We had to get vetted just to go and pay our respects. I can’t imagine how intimidating this must be for grieving descendants or other indigenous people who want to honor these dear souls who were so cruelly taken from their families and their people.

    As I went from grave to grave to pay respects to each person, I was shocked at how far some of them had been sent. There were children there from many, many tribes and states. Some were from as far away as Alaska, California, and Arizona! These children were not only torn from their homes, they were sent 3000 miles away!

    Schindler remarked at how some who were paying their respect at the cemetery felt the present of spirits there. My two friends and I had a similar experience. After visiting each grave, we had taken the time to pray that any remaining spirits find their way to the Light. But as we were driving home later that day, my friend who was driving said, “I think some of the children are here with us.” We didn’t feel, of course, that it would be appropriate to do a ceremony speeding along at 55 or 60 miles an hour, but we conferred about what we could do.

    First we greeted the children, who seemed somewhat happy or comforted to be with us. I theorized that maybe, as young children, they didn’t know how to navigate their way to the Other Side. Maybe they needed some guides. I was thinking out loud who might be the best people to guide them on their way when Betsy said, “They’re already here.” (Spirits willing to be guides.) It took a while to find an exit and a place to pull over, but finally we did. The three of us made a circle near a tree and joined hands. I asked Betsy (who obviously had intuitive and clairvoyant gifts) if the children and the guides were there with us. (I imagined the guides as grandmothers eager to help the children.) She said they were. We each said a brief prayer and, that quickly, like a snap of the fingers, they were gone. I guess they just needed some prayer support in the 3-D world.

    I believe there is a beautiful community of indigenous people in the spirit world. And I have come to believe they support one another in the deep healing work that needs to happen for all indigenous souls who lived with so much trauma. May each soul be infinitely blessed.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Cynthia, Thank you so much for your comment, and I just wanted to add something–picking up where you left off. You said in your last paragraph: “I believe there is a beautiful community of indigenous people in the spirit world”–and maybe these could join with the “Communion of the Saints”? I think that this is a point where “Deep Ecumenism” comes in. We might put a different name on what we are doing from them, but that does not prove that what they are doing is false–they worship the Cosmic Christ in the sense of the Creator / Logos, as can be seen in the first chapter of John and in Colossians 1:15. Its something worth thinking about,

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      Thank you for this, Patrick. I opened your link and read the excerpt. It is the clearest explanation yet of how Constantine’s declaration making Christianity (sic) the religion of empire and how Augustine’s doctrine of original sin led to the desecration of indigenous culture. Thank you for the history.

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    Matthew, thank you again as a prophet for reminding us of the evil history of patriarchy and Western ‘civilization’ at least the past 6500 years (including the religious institution of the church) up to the present time, and especially against indigenous people. It’s so sad realizing how many souls, our human ancestors/sisters and brothers, have suffered in the past. I feel we all carry in some mysterious way those spiritual wounds and guilt from our human past and ancestral spirits. Your recommendation that the church have a more broader universal healing ritual of forgiveness and healing, (especially for the destructive influence of the church’s Doctrine of Discovery), can be part of our collective human need for healing and reconciliation (personal/collective… past/present)….
    Like you said, the mystery of the spirit of evil still is a part of our ongoing human evolution… As inter-dimensional and interconnected beings, our human faith, prayers, compassionate actions with-in God’s Spirit of Divine Love~Wisdom~Creativity continue being important in the Eternal Divine Process~Presence~Present Moment… in order to co-Create God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven….

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Damian, Thank you for your comment today. You mention the, “Doctrine of Discovery,” and I would just add an Imperialistic attitude that was the height of arrogance. First of all they thought their God was the true one, and that their God, Goddess or Great Spirit were all demons. And so they were Christians and the indignance people were instead ignorant savages, and heathens. One of the Ten Commandments says, “Thou shalt not steal,” but The Doctrine of Discovery and Imperialism says that Our side can just take anything we want. And it seems to me that, that is what is going on in Ukraine even as we speak.

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    The cruelty and absurdity of it all. So needless. I am often astonished, and frightened, by the way human beings can get so lost in their own fabricated concepts that they can no longer recognize beauty. They label it something else and destroy it. Not only have indigenous peoples suffered so much personal tragedy, but they are probably also the ones who have the most sensitivity to truly feeling the pain of nature and animals being casually killed in the never-ending tsunami of destruction. Such a great sadness carried by those who love Mother Earth best.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Claudia, “Such a great sadness carried by those who love Mother Earth best.” Amen !!!

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    Jeanette Metler

    Truth-telling, reconciliation and healing are steps that have been walked courageously, perseveringly, and whole-heartedly by the Indigenious people’s… from the Trail of Tears, all the way to Rome. These steps forward appear to most, to be so very small… but in reality they are truly the walk of the beauty way… which the rest of humanity has an opportunity of learning the many teachings and blessings of. These steps carry the gentle movements and mystery of new beginnings… reflecting to all of humanity what it is to dance with the Great Spirit of their sacred pathway.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, You say, “Truth-telling, reconciliation and healing are steps that have been walked courageously, perseveringly, and whole-heartedly by the Indigenous people’s… from the Trail of Tears, all the way to Rome.” Thank you for saving that in such a stunning way !!!

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    Rome should be de-sainting any individual, including all popes, hierarchs of all colors of medieval piping, all priests, sisters and brothers who fostered and perpetuated abuse, not only physical abuse, also spiritual abuse, to native cultures in any country since the beginning of Christianity. That would empty out “heaven” by quite a bit.

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