On the morning of Second Day, 7/22/2013, in the Auditorium of the Silver Bay Association at Silver Bay, N.Y., the sessions of New York Yearly Meeting began with a half hour of waiting worship, followed by the scheduled address of the plenary speaker, Clan Mother Freida Jacques of the Onondaga Nation, one of the six nations comprising the Haudenosaunee.
Freida began by leading us, her audience, in giving thanks to our Mother Earth and all the spiritual beings that support us: the animals, the plants, water, wind, and the heavenly bodies. She then explained the history and symbolism of the Two-Row Wampum that the indigenous nations of the Mohawk Valley gave to the Dutch when they arrived in 1613, a token of the Haudenosaunee’s good intentions toward their new neighbors, and reviewed the sad story of Native American-European-American relations since the Papal bulls that established the Doctrine of Discovery, and the iniquitous history of that doctrine’s legacy in United States law and jurisprudence to this day.
By the time she finished her account, there was time for only one or two questions from the assembled body. I was almost trembling, because I’d been given a question to ask, and knew what I was charged to say if her answer was to be the “No” I expected. I raised my hand and, when recognized, I spoke. I was at the center front of the auditorium, so I could see only Freida and a few Friends who were sitting as elders in the facing chairs. There was no microphone, so I spoke loudly. This record of our words is not exact, but approximate:
“Do you know,” I asked, “of any statement of apology, or request for forgiveness, ever made to the Haudenosaunee, or any other Native American peoples, for offenses done to them under cover of the Doctrine of Discovery or presumed rights derived from it, by any person or church body claiming to speak for Jesus Christ or His church?”
“No,” Freida answered. “Various groups have made statements repudiating or condemning the Doctrine of Discovery, but there’s been nothing I know of such as you’re describing, not an actual apology.”
“Then, because I belong entirely to Jesus Christ, and I believe myself to have been authorized to speak for Him and His church by virtue of my membership in Him, I therefore make that statement of apology and this request for forgiveness:
“In the name of Jesus Christ, and on behalf of the Church comprising all believers in Him, everywhere and in all ages, I ask the forgiveness of you and your people, and of all indigenous peoples everywhere that have ever suffered invasion, violence, theft, hurt or wrong of any kind at the hand of people calling themselves Christian. And by the authority Jesus Christ gives me, I declare that it was never the intention of Jesus Christ, nor of Almighty God His Father, that violence, theft or injustice be done in His holy Name, but rather that we should love all our brothers and sisters, and indeed all creatures in the Creation God has given us. In Jesus’ name I affirm this! Amen.”