Words are the means by which we configure and create our reality. When we change our words we change our reality. The words we use in our daily lives in our interaction with others constitute an entire reality. The change of one word, or sometimes even one letter of the alphabet, can result in an entire shift in reality. Take for example, the difference between “people” (with no s) and the word “peoples” (with an s). The first indicates individuals; the second indicates entire peoples (i.e., nations).
The prefix “re” means “to do again.” To “re-evangelize,” for example, means to re-perform those actions which expanded and spread Christian evangelization, a process by which the combination of words and behavior resulted in immense amounts of land, power, and wealth ending up under the domination of Christianity, the Catholic Church, and Christian European monarchies, and states.
To “re-colonize” means to redo, or re-inforce, the colonizing behavioral patterns of domination (thought and behavior) that were engaged in for centuries. Initially, pacifying angry Natives involved the need to “conciliate” them, which means “to make someone no longer angry,” or, “to pacify someone or a group of people who harbor resentment by getting them to drop their resentment.”
An effort by one nation to engage in the physical conquest of another nation involves the aggressor nation violently entering or invading another nation’s homeland; this is accurately called “homeland invasion.” Along those lines, what form of reality is constituted by a process of “spiritual conquest” in the name of evangelization? Spiritual conquest is achieved by first physically invading a free and independent nation and then invading and colonizing the Spirit of the nation or people being invaded, using techniques of psychological warfare against the invaded nation.
Evangelism, according to theologian Walter Brueggemann, in his Biblical Perspectives on Evangelism (1993), is “a narrative account” that has “three scenes.” “In the first scene,” he says, “there is combat, struggle, and conflict between powerful forces [his emphasis] who battle for control of the turf, control of the payoffs, control of the future.” He goes even further and states: “Evangelism makes no sense unless the drama is understood. . . as combat and struggle.” Christian evangelism was regarded as part of a cosmic struggle between good and evil on earth. Brueggemann says that in the evangelistic tradition, “events that happened in one place matter decisively in another place,” and “victories won in one time continue to count decisively in another time” (p. 17).
The Catholic priests who came to our part of Great Turtle Island/Abya Yala (the “Western Hemisphere”) explicitly said that the goal of their evangelization was the “spiritual conquest” of our ancestors whom they termed “gentiles.” This means that the priests were actively engaged in a battle for Christendom, or the Christian empire, to control the future, including the future of our nations. The dominating evangelizers brought with them the image of “the Mother Mary,” whom they called “La Conquistadora,” a female Conqueror (Dominator) who engages in “conquest.” To re-evangelize is to engage in a new evangelism, or to engage in activities of “spiritual conquest” (domination), in the name of “reconciliation.”
Twenty-first century re-conciliation, in my view, is a modern day effort to renew the initial evangelization process by persuading our nations and peoples to willingly accept a diminished political status, so that we will no longer resist the control exerted over our existence by “the state.” As I see it, this is an extension of the same patterns of thought and behavior exhibited in the papal bulls of the Roman Catholic Church in Pope Alexander VI’s plan to expand “the Christian Empire,” which is simply Christian domination carried out under the name of “evangelism.”
The United Nations (UN) working definition of “indigenous peoples” follows the tradition of the papal bulls by using the idea that “indigenous” means peoples permanently existing under the dominance of “the state.” Once you learn to see the pattern, the imagery becomes very clear: Centuries ago, there were original, free, and distinct nations existing on the planet. Then our nations were suddenly invaded by the monarchies of Western Christendom.
The fact that our nations were already existing free and independent before that invasion of our nations and our territories by Christian political powers is the basis for the UN working definition referring to our original free nations as being “pre-invasion.” The term “pre” acknowledges the original free existence of our nations prior to when our ancestors, our nations, and our territories were invaded by the monarchies of Western Christendom. Today, some of us still subscribe to the view that our original free nations have the right to live free from domination because the system of domination that invaded us has never been valid or acceptable.
Our nations now live with a “post-invasion” claim of a right of domination. An invasion is “an invading or being invaded.” It is defined as “an entering or being entered by an attacking army.” To invade is “to enter forcibly or hostilely; come into as an enemy;…to enter in and spread through…” Invasion is part of colonization, which historian Samuel Morison defined as “a form of conquest [domination] in which a nation takes over a distant territory.” He adds that the invading nation “thrusts in its own people” and “controls or eliminates the native inhabitants.” (The Oxford History of the American People, 1965, p. 34).
The UN working definition of Indigenous Peoples implicitly uses the imagery of the invasion of our lands and territories to portray dominating societies gradually emerging from that history and existing to this day. The UN calls those dominating societies “now prevailing” (i.e., now dominating) in relation to our original free nations. This suggests that the “now prevailing” societies are actively dominating our nations and peoples which are being characterized as “indigenous,” meaning dominated nations and peoples.
Given the above, a question arises: Why are so many people considering the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to be a basis for fundamental reform when it contains no provisions to end the domination system that has been established over and imposed on our nations by various states such as Canada, the United States, and other countries?
Once we realize the UN Declaration was never designed with the words necessary to end the reality-system of domination maintained by states, we come face to face with an inescapable point: When, for example, the Canadian government says, as it recently did, that it is going to engage in a process of “reconciliation,” by implementing the words of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in a manner consistent with the Canadian Constitution, this tells us we can expect more of the domination game, just called by a different name.
Steven Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape) is co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, and author of Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery(Fulcrum, 2008). He is a co-producer of the documentary movie, “The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code,” directed and produced by Sheldon Wolfchild (Dakota), with narration by Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree).The movie can be ordered from38Plus2Productions.com.