The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their many allies are calling for a Day of Action on November 15, 2016, at Army Corps of Engineers District Headquarters around the country. Indigenous leaders are urging us to create a united front to demand that President Obama stop the North Dakota Access Pipeline. In their own words indigenous communities are fighting to have "native sovereignty recognized, indigenous rights protected, and their communities, water and climate matter more than fossil fuel profits."
In addition to calling upon President Obama to stop NoDAPL, Euro-American Christians and Native Americans are calling upon Pope Francis to revoke the papal bull Inter Caetera (1493) and its predecessor, Romanus Pontifex (I455). These papal edicts exhort Christian kings and princes of Europe to "not only restrain the savage excesses of the Saracens and of other infidels" but also to "vanquish them and their kingdoms and habitations" and "reduce the enemies of Christ to perpetual slavery." These papal bulls give validation to the quasi-religious doctrine of discovery--a doctrine enshrined in US Indian law.
Steven Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape), co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, and his colleagues have been working since 1992 to persuade the Vatican to revoke Inter Caetera. The revocation is important because it would repudiate the church's complicity in the history of colonial conquest of indigenous peoples and lands, and thus pave the way for a more peaceful and just society.
The doctrine of discovery became a fundamental principal of US Indian law as a result of Johnson v. McIntosh (1823). Many legal scholars consider it the most important Indian rights opinion ever issued by the Supreme Court. The case was about ownership of a disputed property. Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that land which had been discovered and conquered belong entirely to the conquering nation. Natives occupied the land, but they did not hold title. The decision established the principal of white supremacy. Further, Marshall argued that since the doctrine of discovery predated the establishment of the United States, the court was merely an instrument of the doctrine and, therefore, powerless to change it.
The Episcopal Church charted new seas for Protestant denominations in the United States when it repudiated the doctrine of discovery at its 76th General Convention in 2009. On May 16, 2012, Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori issued a pastoral letter repudiating the doctrine of discovery. In the letter she defined the mission of the church as "healing brokeness." Since 2009 a number of other Protestant denominations have also repudiated the doctrine of discovery. In light of this repudiation the next step is for churches to return land held in trust to Native Americans. In solidarity with Native peoples denominations can also urge the government to honor treaties that have been ratified, and to observe the terms and conditions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.