The Haunting: A Poem about the ‘Doctrine of Discovery’

The Haunting: A Poem about the ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ April 28, 2015

The Doctrine of Discovery is a little known aspect of our Christian history. A tragic example of the justification of conquest and the theft of land and resources from indigenous people’s around the globe. Many Christian bloggers have recently come together to raise awareness about the continuing legal and moral consequences of our this doctrine. It is especially important for us to lift up native voices in this conversation, so we encourage you to read the contributions of Mark Charles at Formerly Fundie, the interview of Jim Bear Jacobs at Christian Piatt’s blog, or the interview of Randy Woodley at Cindy Words. The following poem is by Randy Woodley, a Cherokee and a professor at George Fox University. — By Aric Clark, Series Curator


The Haunting

wasn’t it 1492 when Columbus sailed the azure ocean?

salty water lapping shores separating neighbors

come into our house—there is no honor in dispelling a neighbor

but unruly neighbors are a curse and bad religion is a plague

came the call from every corner with mangled crosses and dubious preachers

came, you came to our land…our lives…our homes


“virgin land,” mother earth milk & honey flowing from her breast—you saw fences

“virgin trees,” Sequoia mammoths decorating a vast green park—you saw timber

“virgin nations,” going…gone—left from a greater civilization—but you did not see me

land…trees…”ours” you say—and the nations just a blight on your conscience

cut the land, cut the trees, cut the nations…

this is the clarion Christian call

rape the land, rape the trees, rape the nations…

ignore my blood and tears when you pray


i am a red Indian, a raped virgin—you make me a “noble whore”

thrown into a dark corner with the trees, and the land, and the “lost” civilizations

my spiritual reservations are the places you relegate to me

compartments fit for non-human species—churches made from acreage and board feet


good Indian—come to church, makum’ god happy

good Indian get job, makum’ government happy

good Indian keep quiet…subdued…silent

quietly turn your vile abuse, your bitter loss onto yourself and other bad Indians

then…you makum’ everyone of us Americans very happy

cause we got your land

and we got your trees

and never forget…never, ever forget—that we got god—so we got your souls!


where do the souls of dead Indians go?

where does one go after rape and torture, robbery and slavery, disease and genocide?

perhaps we join the land and the trees

lingering with the spirit of Jesus on earth to curse savage Christian civilizations

we die early and we die often…but we die slow

and, we die knowing a secret that you don’t even care to know


that your land will not rest

and your trees will make only crooked crosses

and your children will breathe their last breathes in despair

…groping for an identity that you could not steal for them

…grasping for an honor that always alluded them

…clinching for a God…and land…and trees…and nations that were never theirs


and herein is the lesson… gifts can’t be stolen

and love takes flight where control makes its nest

and Jesus? O, Jesus…

You crucify Him anew with every sacrifice that we make to accommodate you

wasn’t it 1491 when there was no haunting?


The Haunting © 2003 Randy Woodley

Randy WoodleyRandy Woodley was raised near Detroit, Michigan and is a legal descendent of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma. Randy is Distinguished Professor of Faith and Culture, and Director of Intercultural and Indigenous Studies at George Fox Seminary. He and his wife Edith, maintain Eloheh Farm and Eloheh Village for Indigenous Leadership and Ministry Development, a permaculture, regenerative teaching farm and community in Newberg, Oregon. His most recent book is Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision (Eerdmans, 2012).

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