The Franciscan Federation of the Sisters and Brothers of the Third Order Regular of the U.S., and their associates resolved “to stand in solidarity with Native American People in care of their land and of our Sister, Mother Earth” in a resolution affirmed by some 240 attendees representing 61 member congregations at their annual meeting.

The Resolution is rooted in the words of Pope Francis in the encyclical, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, #146: “It is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions. They are not merely one minority among others, but should be the principal dialogue partners, especially when large projects affecting their land are proposed. For them, land is not a commodity but rather a gift of God and from their ancestors who rest there, a sacred space with which they need to interact and maintain their identity and values. When they remain on their land, they themselves care for it best.”

It goes on to say, “As Franciscans, being in solidarity with our Indigenous Brothers and Sisters, in particular Native Americans, we act on the words of Pope Francis in the encyclical: #217: “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork, it is essential to the life of virtue; it is not an option or a secondary aspect of our Christian life.” #218: “In calling to mind the figure of St. Francis of Assisi, we come to realize that a healthy relationship with creation is one dimension of overall personal conversion.”

This resolution calls for a pledge to learn about the enduring effects of the Doctrine of Discovery, including its application in US law as the justification for claiming that Native Americans do not have title to discovered lands, that they are mere tenants on their ancestral lands. This Doctrine of Discovery is the result of three Papal bulls that provided the moral and legal rationale for Christian explorers to confiscate all land and possessions of the inhabitants of “barbarous nations.”

Members of the Franciscan Federation are encouraged to “learn from Indigenous Peoples about their history and cultures and to value their worldview that respects the interconnectedness of all life, including that of Mother Earth” and, “in the spirit of St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi” to seek pardon for the sufferings imposed upon Indigenous Peoples and to petition Pope Francis to revoke the Doctrine of Discovery.

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