Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Bookmarking Cultural Genocide
It was interesting…and troubling… to listen to author Matthew Bunson ("St. Kateri: Lily of the Mohawks") talking to Doug Keck, Executive Director of Eternal Word Television Network and host of EWTN roamin catholic television's "Bookmark" (July 13, 2015) on the history of catholicism on Turtle Island. I observed them privileging the work of catholic missionaries above the colonial exploitation of the Spanish, British and French as if they were the singular light of redemption of that time in that place. Talking romantically about the "black robes" as the "highly educated" Jesuit priests were called, they bantered about the Jesuits having set up a settlement so that they could "practice their faith" and "protect themselves", (gently) castigating the Iroquois for their "xenophobia" and for their concern of the encroachment of European settlers in their Ancestral lands.
The casual nature of their conversation more than belied the brutality and genocide against First Nations, Original and Native American peoples on Turtle Island, recently brought to light and news headlines by an apology stated by the pope. It submerged the voice, struggle and resistance of indigenous peoples against European colonialism, made more negatively profound by the work of predatory missionaries projecting foreign and unnecessary religious and cultural concepts into indigenous nations, tribes and bands, enacting, in essence and action, cultural genocide, none of which was brought into the conversation with any substance by Bunson or Keck. Actually, their discussion was more a shaming of those who might dare to suggest that somehow the catholic church was involved in any negative way in the destruction of indigenous cultural, political and/or spiritual sovereignty, seemingly negating the sense of openness, at least in word only, that the pope created by his apology and his statements of the importance of indigenous peoples and their stewardship of the earth in the recent environmental encyclical, "Laudato Si".
This interview harked back to narrow and colonial ways of referring to indigenous peoples and resistance to the European holocaust on Turtle Island and beyond. Its casual air was, again, troubling, as they reaffirmed a cultural arrogance, a matter-of-factness of religious and colonial privilege that stated strongly that being "saved" in the particular European derivation of christianity was and is required for their conception of redemption to become real and that that was still their conception about how the world should be engaged. This kind of conversation is no different than the nature of the original vatican papal bulls of the 1400's that gave catholic and christian conquerors the blessing of the church to subjugate peoples and lands in the interest of saving souls and emboldening the colonial force of christendom across the planet. This, again, seems contradictory to the recent statements by the roamin catholic pope himself, suggesting that there may yet be a currently silent rift or at least an important learning curve yet ahead in the catholic church's 1.2 billion members if the words of the pope are going to be taken seriously in the light…or shadow…of the recent encyclical and apology for the sins of the church against indigenous peoples.
Posted by Mzee Ukumbwa Sauti, M.Ed.