General Assembly: GA Presentations: Presenter views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UUA.

Bringing the Doctrine of Discovery Back Home

General Assembly 2012 Event 421

Program Description

Speakers: Beth Brownfield, Rev. Colin Bossen, Rev. Clyde Grubbs, Bruce Knotts

In this program, participants learned about the historical impact of the Doctrine of Discovery on the world, the connections of the Doctrine to immigration issues, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as an antidote to the effects of the Doctrine, as well as gaining take-home resources to help introduce this topic to their congregations.

Taking the Doctrine of Christian Discovery Home

Download this flyer (PDF); it can be can be copied front-to-back and folded into thirds.

How can we respond to what we have learned about the Doctrine of Christian Discovery?

Developing Relationships with Indigenous Neighbors

Show up at events open to the public Support by ‘partnering with’, not ‘helping’.

  • Advocate for
  • Take directions
  • Listen more
  • Talk less

How to Respond


  • Identify and learn the history of the indigenous peoples who previously lived, or currently live, in your region or state.
  • Observe “Colonial mindset” in oneself and in society at large.
  • Acknowledge and honor the specific first inhabitants of your region.
  • Develop a relationship with indigenous neighbors and join forces to support them in partnership and/or advocacy for local programs and national issues.
  • Visit Native American cultural centers.
  • Attend events open to the public such as pow wows, art exhibits, workshops, celebrations, and performances.
  • Form a Native American Connections Committee in your congregation to support, honor, and appreciate indigenous peoples locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

Suggested Actions



  • the Indian treaties that apply in your area.
  • the boarding school era and the resulting cultural and historical trauma.
  • resource mining’s pollution effects on the quality of water, air, soil, and health.


  • about former federal Indian policies and acts, e.g. Indian removal, termination, and allotments.
  • about the important cultural challenges currently faced by indigenous peoples today: sexual abuse, violence against women, sex trafficking, teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, gangs, housing shortage, unemployment, education, economics, nutrition, and health services.
  • the Native American perspective on Columbus and Columbus Day.

Support/Advocate For

  • the U.S. to implement the UN Declaration.
  • local museums and institutions to return ancestral remains and sacred objects to the appropriate native nations.


  • to understand sovereignty, treaties, tribal governments, and the relationship of tribal nations to the Federal Government.


  • your community to always consult with native nations in matters that concern them.


  • native produced films and documentaries followed by discussion.


  • Native Americans to speak at services, forums, and workshops.


  • at least one special collection by your congregation to a Native American program or organization.


  • Arizona’s statewide ban on ethnic studies.


  • for the retirement of sport team logos and mascots that dishonor indigenous peoples.

Organizations to Support


A Native American born today faces

Comparative to all other ethnicities and races (Source: U.S. 2000 Census and Dept of Justice)

Educational outlook
  • 50%will never finish high school
  • 86%will never obtain a college degree
Greater chance of being a victim
  • 2.5 times more likely to be a victim of violence than any other ethnicity
  • 80%more likely to die a violent death by accident, murder or suicide
  • 1 in 3 native women will be raped or sexually assaulted at least once
  • 86% of perpetrators are non-native, causing jurisdiction issues and no prosecution
Lower life expectancy
  • 10 years lower than the national average
  • 2.5 times greater chance of committing suicide before 24
Greater health risks
  • 3 times more likely to suffer from illness (i.e. diabetes, heart disease, cancer)
Greater poverty
  • 6 times more likely to be unemployed
  • 2.5 times more likely to live in poverty
  • Greater risk of homelessness
  • 5 times more likely to be placed and remain in foster care as a youth
  • 6 times more likely to become homeless
  • Natives are rarely in the media
  • News coverage of native issues often focuses only on negative stories

Books, Magazines, Articles