Hubris comes to mind as I read about the Pope’s apology tour of Canada. But this isn’t about the Pope who is gagged by power and the ignorance of ages. It’s about the dominant culture that continues to ignore the gross and inhumane facts on how indigenous people were and are treated. It’s about the Doctrine of Discovery, how so very few of us know what it is or don’t care about how it still influences our thinking and behavior.
When the Si Pih Ko stood before the Pope and sang the “Our Village” song, dominant media raced to explain that she was singing the Canadian National anthem in Cree. You can see her sing, tears rolling down her cheeks, defiance and dignity emanating from her. And the media whitewashed it as “the Canadian anthem in Cree”.
I call hubris: excessive pride that leads to downfall.
The Doctrine of Discovery originated as edicts by the Catholic Church in the 15th century. They empowered Portugal and Spain to colonize West Africa and the Americas by all means necessary. It’s estimated that twelve million indigenous human beings died since 1492. Unmarked graves of children at residential schools tell the story of brutalization and erasure of native people by all means necessary.
At the stand at Standing Rock when Christian clergy approached the sacred fire and asked to burn the Doctrine of Discovery, they were told “No. Because it’s not over.” In that moment I witnessed the depth of pain and the ignorance of dominance collide.
No, it’s not over. It’s alive in the trauma of remembrance and in current Supreme Court decisions. It’s not over, until we purge the hubris, or succumb to the downfall. We must rescind the Doctrine of Discovery from our beings.