Opinion

Steven Newcomb: Law of Christendom at play in #NoDAPL battle






The Camp of the Sacred Stones near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photo by Dallas Goldtooth

Steven Newcomb (Shawnee / Lenape) of the Indigenous Law Institute looks at the historical context of the battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline that runs near the home of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe:
Approval of the colonizing Dakota Access Pipeline project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the resulting conflict with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation has a historical context. That context consists of the ideas and mental patterns of Western Christendom which the United States has used and continues to use against our nations and peoples. Those ideas and patterns of argumentation are now being tacitly used against the Standing Rock Dakota and the Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires of the Teton Nation) in the pipeline controversy.

The most foundational ideas and arguments that the United States is using against our nations are traced back to the days of Western Christendom, and to the language of domination found in the papal bulls and royal charters of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The United States is treating the Standing Rock Dakota and the Oceti Sakowin in a disrespectful and coercive manner based on religiously premised concepts and arguments derived from what used to be called the international law of Christendom, or “the law of Christian nations.” Those ideas from the past continue to control the present for all of our original nations.

An example of that past thinking that continues in the present is found in Jedediah Morse’s “Report On Indian Affairs,” published in 1822. A Congregational clergyman, Morse delivered his report to U.S. Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, to Congress, and to President James Monroe. In the conclusion to his Report (p. 93), Morse characterized the Indian people as “a valuable part of that large body of heathen in our world, who are shortly to become the inheritance of our Redeemer,” at which point he cited to Psalms 2:8 in the Bible, which reads: “Ask of me, and I shall give to you the heathen for thine inheritance [property], and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.”

Read More:
Steven Newcomb: The Dakota Access Pipeline and ‘the Law of Christendom’ (Indian Country Today 8/28)

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