Minute by Winnebago Worship Group to Renounce the Doctrine of Discovery

In response to the call of Native Peoples, and in solidarity with other religious groups that have made similar statements, the Winnebago Worship Group of Northern Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker) hereby renounces the Doctrine of Discovery. 

This doctrine was first asserted in 1493 as a papal bull calling for non-Christian “barbarous nations” to be subjugated and converted to Christianity for the “propagation of the Christian empire.” This was followed by other religious and governmental decrees and directives that created the legal basis and philosophical justification to dominate, oppress, exploit, and enslave Indigenous Peoples in North America and around the world, to perpetrate genocide against Native Peoples, to eradicate language, cultural and religious practices, and to assert sovereignty over Native land.

The Doctrine of Discovery is a statement of Christian and European supremacy and denies the full humanity of Indigenous, non-Christian people.  As Quakers who are part of a religious organization with deep roots in Christianity, we declare our disagreement with the religious assumptions embedded in the Doctrine of Discovery.  As part of an anti-racist faith community, we also actively reject statements that support the toxic political and cultural assumptions, attitudes and beliefs of the Doctrine of Discovery.

Because the Doctrine of Discovery is embedded in the legal foundations of the United States and other countries, it continues to be cited as a precedent to deny the rights of Indigenous Peoples. For this reason, we urge our government and all governments to revoke the laws and policies based on the Doctrine of Discovery that do not support the rights of Native Peoples.  We also affirm the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a guideline for developing new laws and policies in consultation with Native Peoples.

As Quakers, we also commit to exploring our own complicity in the destruction of Native families, communities, culture and language. In line with the assumption in the Doctrine of Discovery of the inferiority of Indigenous Peoples and believing that assimilation was the best option for survival, Quakers established boarding schools that required Native children to adopt European-American manners of dress, language, gender roles, and Christian teachings.  Despite good intentions, this forced assimilation did great harm to Native children, families and communities that is still affecting Indigenous communities today.

As members of Winnebago Worship Group, we understand the Doctrine of Discovery is an attack on indigenous sovereignty of the past, present, and future.  We reject the assumptions, attitudes and beliefs that underlie the Doctrine of Discovery.  We pledge to actively seek a better understanding of this doctrine and its consequences, to work toward developing an authentic right relationship with Native Peoples that includes reparations to address the harm that has been done, to challenge the structures and practices that continue to cause harm, and to find ways to take meaningful action that supports Native Peoples.  In doing so, we will follow the leadership and guidance of Indigenous People within our community and beyond. 

Minute by Winnebago Worship Group to Renounce the Doctrine of Discovery