Los Angeles Times
The pope’s next apology
Re “Indigenous apology tour signals rethink of papal legacy,” July 24, and “Pope apologizes for the ‘catastrophic’ Indigenous school policy in Canada,” July 26
As an Indigenous person in the U.S., I offer heartfelt thanks to Pope Francis for his penitent pilgrimage to Canada to ask forgiveness for the forced assimilation of Native people in Catholic boarding schools there. I wish the pope would do the same here; however, not all boarding schools were Catholic.
Both my parents were subjected to forced boarding schools. My orphaned Seneca father was sent to Thomas Indian School in New York, and my Apache mother was sent from her tribe in Arizona to the Sherman Indian School in Riverside County.
The tragic boarding school issue is but a symptom of something more insidious. One of the articles you published on the pope’s apology mentioned the Doctrine of Discovery and its papal origin. It was a legal concept that legitimized and advanced the European colonization of much of the world.
In 1455, Pope Nicholas V granted Portugal’s King Alfonso V and other European colonizers the right to “invade, search out, capture, vanquish … and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery.” The driving force was largely not religious; it was, rather, driven by more secular appetites cloaked in religious intent.
This concept was adopted into U.S. law by our own Supreme Court in 1823 in Johnson vs. McIntosh. This nefarious doctrine should be acknowledged and repudiated, but instead it remains a skeleton in our nation’s closet.
While the pope has finally issued an apology to Canadian Indigenous people, there is much more that needs to be done both in
Canada and the United States.
DNA testing needs to be done on bodies found buried in the graves of these boarding schools so that extended families can claim and bury their relatives.
Funerals need to be paid for by the governments. Addiction treatment needs to be paid for by the governments.
Revival of their Indigenous languages needs to be paid for by the governments.
These things would constitute just one small step in trying to pave the way to healing from the atrocities that have been (and still are) committed.
Leslie Martin Huntington Beach