CORBETT, Ore. (PNS) – Attendees of the Presbyterians for Earth Care Conference have wrapped up a week of conversation and tears around the struggles of Native Americans and the continued environmental threat to the Columbia River Gorge along the Oregon/Washington state line.
The week included a sharing of meals and conversations with local tribes, a visit to local fishermen and fisherwomen and deep conversations about the Doctrine of Discovery. The doctrine allowed colonial powers to lay claim to lands belonging to foreign sovereign nations if inhabitants were not considered Christian.
“The Doctrine of Discovery is still being used to tell native people they don’t have the right to own property, govern or manage their resources the way it needs to be done,” said the Rev. Alan Buck, pastor of the Portland Native American Fellowship. “The doctrine jettisoned the white Christian man into leadership roles.”
Irv Porter, associate for Native American Intercultural and Congregational Support with the Presbyterian Mission Agency, led a panel discussion on the doctrine.
“The doctrine was used to weaken legitimacy and worth of international treaties between indigenous nations and countries that included the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand,” said Porter. “What does a 500-year-old document have to do with me? It allows policies to develop without the knowledge and consent of indigenous people. Diminished protection of human rights is obvious.”