Creation care includes examining our relationship with Indigenous Peoples, whose land was taken for exploitation and development upon the settling of this country. Some members of Mennonite Creation Care Network contributed to the production of a film that the Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Working Group was preparing for Mennonite gatherings this past summer. The 43-minute documentary is available on the Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery website. 

The working group also prepared a visual display showing the connections between the Doctrine of Discovery and Mennonite settlement. This professionally created exhibit made its way from the MCUSA Convention in Kansas City to Pennsylvania’s Mennonite World Conference during the summer of 2015.  It has continued to Ohio, where it is currently being hosted by the Mennonite Historical Society and Bluffton College. In November, it will move to Goshen College.

  • To host this display in your own community, contact Anita Amstutz,
  • To purchase your own exhibit, contact Ken Gingerich, for details and cost.
  • Read more about the Doctrine of Discovery below:

What is the Doctrine of Discovery?

Over centuries, Indigenous nations were exterminated, removed, resettled and assimilated by this country’s military and government. The laws that allowed this practice, whose original structures are still encoded in our U.S. Supreme Court and international economic laws, began with a set of 15th century papal bulls. For example, the papal bull, Romanus Pontifex, that Pope Nicolas issued in 1455 authorizes governments to:

invade, search out, capture, vanquish and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever and other enemies of Christ, wheresoever placed and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery….

Thus began more than five centuries of the Christian Law of the Doctrine of Discovery, a collaboration between church and state to disenfranchise and systematically deny human rights and sovereign land rights to Indigenous Peoples. Meanwhile, Mennonite settlers were among many who emigrated to the “New World” hungry for land giveaways. Like the histories of most people of European descent, Mennonite history is intertwined with the Doctrine of Discovery.

The Doctrine of Discovery is more than a sad chapter of the past. Exploitation of Indigenous Peoples and their lands continues. The film, “Doctrine of Discovery: In the Name of Christ” explores some of these situations and calls Christians to walk alongside Indigenous Peoples. “What was done in the name of Christ needs to be undone in the name of Christ,” says Sheri Hostetler, a pastor and member of the Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Steering Committee. Other steering committee members are: Sarah Augustine, Katerina Friesen and Anita Amstutz.