Creating A Common Memory (Doctrine of Discovery)

Creating A Common Memory (Doctrine of Discovery) April 22, 2015

Skid Row - After Shooting - wirelesshogan

* Guest post by Mark Charles

“Everybody get your cell phones out!”

“Make sure you get this on video!”

Early last March, due to an unusually heavy snowstorm in Albuquerque, NM, my flight was cancelled, my travel diverted, and I found myself unexpectedly stuck in downtown Los Angeles for 24 hours while I waited to catch a train back to the Navajo reservation. I was spending the day visiting the LA Union Rescue Mission, utilizing their Chaplains Study to get some work done. It was a beautiful Southern California morning. The sun was shining and my window was open as I worked 2 stories above skid row. I could hear the voices on the streets and knew the police were out, asking people to take down their tents. But it was above the normal noise and commotion that I heard something like the quotes above. So I walked over to the open window to see what was going on.

Pow! Pow!

Pow! Pow! Pow!

I saw people scatter. I watched people run. I heard people screaming.

I did not have a full view of the street so I ran up to the roof and looked down over skid row.

Already I could hear sirens in the distance and see helicopters flying above. That was quick. It didn’t take me long to find the body of the homeless man, named Africa, lying on the sidewalk. Police cars pulled up. Yellow tape was strung. More police came. People were moved back. More police came. Then an ambulance. The body was covered, placed on a stretcher and removed from the street. More tape was strung. More policemen arrived. Helicopters circled overhead. First the nearby sidewalks were cleared. Then the sidewalks across the street. Next a line of police was formed and the block was cleared, first to the south and then to the north. I had never seen anything like this before. It was crazy. I did not know the story, but I wondered if I was witnessing another Ferguson? It was incredibly troubling.

One does not need to look hard to conclude that the US has a race problem. In the Declaration of Independence, 30 lines below the famous quote “All men are created equal” the founders dehumanized natives by referring to us as “merciless Indian savages.” The Constitution specifically excludes women, Indians and African slaves. And in 1823, Johnson vs. M’Intosh, the US Supreme court set a case precedent for land titles based on the dehumanization of natives in the Doctrine of Discovery. A precedent which was referenced by the Court as recently as 2005 (City of Sherrill vs. Oneida Nation of NY).

Broken treaties. Slavery. The Indian Removal Act of 1830. Jim Crow Laws. The Dawes Allotment Act. Segregation. Indian Boarding Schools. Mass incarceration. The apology to Native peoples that Congress buried in the 2010 Department of Defense appropriations act. And the list goes on and on.

While it is easy to conclude, I actually don’t think race is our primary problem. Make no mistake, the founding fathers of the United States of America were absolutely racist, and they embedded their racism deep into the foundations of this nation. But today, our primary problem is not race. The problem is historical trauma and the telling of our history.

Now, I know when I mention historical trauma, it is easy to jump directly to the historical trauma of our minority communities; the descendants of slaves and the survivors of boarding schools.  And while I agree that both of these communities suffer greatly from historical trauma, I do not think they are the ones suffering the most. Rather, I think the worst victims of historical trauma in the United States is the white descendants of European immigrants and the rest of the dominant culture. For centuries they have been building a nation based on the dehumanization of indigenous and African peoples and their descendants. They have bought them, sold them, beat them, raped them and killed them. They have stolen from them, relocated them, unjustly incarcerated them, and in every other imaginable way stepped on them.

This has gone on for over 500 years.

Now the trauma is so great that our states and schools cannot even bear to teach their own history. They attempt to pass laws forbidding the teaching of negative, unpatriotic history. The educational system doesn’t mention the Doctrine of Discovery. Tests don’t ask what justifications were given by the colonists when declaring their independence. We build monuments to Christopher Columbus and give 20 Congressional Medals of Honor to the US soldiers who participated in the massacre at Wounded Knee. We put Andrew Jackson on the $20 dollar bill and, on a mountain side sacred to Native peoples, engrave the face of the US President who, with the hanging of the Dakota 38, ordered the largest mass execution in the history of our nation (Abraham Lincoln).

This is our past. This is our history. This is how our nation was built.

The United States of America is not rich and powerful because of God’s blessing. We are rich and powerful because we are systemically racist and inherently unjust.

Native peoples know it. African Americans know it. Other colonized nations and peoples around the world know it. In fact, much of the international community knows it.

But most Americans don’t.

They were never taught. They were never told. Their historical trauma keeps it buried. And so healing is hard to come by. And reconciliation is next to impossible.

Georges Erasmus, an Aboriginal leader from Canada, said, “Where common memory is lacking, where people do not share in the same past, there can be no real community. Where community is to be formed, common memory must be created.”

Historically, our country has a built-in problem with race. But I do not think race is our primary problem.  Today we are dealing with the historical trauma of African Americans, Native peoples, and especially, white America. The path of healing and the road towards reconciliation will not begin with new laws, or even with an amendment to our dehumanizing Constitution. Instead, it must start with the telling of the truth and an accurate portrayal of our history.

If we want real community in this country, we must begin with creating a common memory.

But until we do, keep your cell phones handy. Because Eric Garner, buried apologies, The Washington Redsk*ns, and the unfortunate death of ‘Africa’ is only the tip of the iceberg for a deeply troubled and historically traumatized nation.


Mark Charles, in his blog article “The Doctrine of Discovery- A Buried Apology and an Empty Chair” has proposed the idea for a “Truth Commission,” a series of national conferences beginning in Washington DC in December of 2016. These conferences would attempt to create a common memory through educating people on the Doctrine of Discovery and teaching an accurate history of the United States of America. It would also provide a platform for survivors of Indian boarding schools to share the stories of their experiences. For more information you can visit his website (, follow him on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or Instagram (user name wirelesshogan) or subscribe to the “Truth Commission” email list.

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  • Trev

    I do not even think the problem is only around race issues. We had sterilization programs in Alberta past the halfway point of the last century, and that is generally glossed over as something from the 20s. There are numerous issues that can be brought up in history classes, but the prevailing trend in grade school is still for the narrative of progress, which only wants students to learn about the contributions of certain racial-ethnic groups (even minority groups) to the betterment of society. Nothing about the bad stuff that hindered progress.

    I wish the U.S. Aboriginal groups the best of luck with their Truth Commission initiative, but cannot help but think it will stills fall on deaf ears. I heard nearly nothing about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission here in Canada except that it was in another city and that the Catholic bishops apologized for the Residental Schools (again?).

  • John R. Henry

    Great post. Such great insight by saying that Euro-Americans are the ones with the biggest historical trauma problem. I have never thought about it that way.

  • This is nonsense, sorry. Trauma is different from narcissistic fear. Both are painful states, but neither the cause nor the cure for these states is the same. Trauma is the scar tissue of wounds, including the (quite reasonable) sense of ongoing threat of further wounding. Narcissistic fear, by contrast, is the dread of discovering that one’s self-image is hollow at the core, that one’s reputation is based as much on lies as on real accomplishment. The cure for trauma is resistance to the ongoing wounding, on one’s own behalf and those of others similarly situated. The cure for narcissistic fear is repentance and reparation.

  • Herm

    Jack Nicholson as Colonel Nathan R. Jessop in the movie “A Few Good Men” said, “You can’t handle the truth.”

    Mark, I have never stopped hurting as the truth, different from how I was raised and educated, has slowly unfolded as I’ve moved throughout this world of many nations. It was a shock to find cultures that had existed thousands of years, before my culture of birth was even a concept, who were actually more productive and constructive for all of mankind than was my nation espousing freedom and independence for all of mankind who were created equal of God. I have so much to say regarding truth and not enough time left in my life to share it with those ignorant bigoted survivalists who recreate facts that they and theirs survive above and beyond all others. The instinct for survival is good when applied altruistically to the whole of one’s species. The instinct for survival is evil when egotistically applied while blind to the plight of others who are in reality us.

    It is like hypothermia, to me, where the blood is denied to the limbs and brain so that the heart might survive beyond the brain. What good is a heart without a beat prompted by the brain and with no living limbs to support the heart?

    This is a progressive “Christian” forum honestly searching for the truth. That is how I will share today. God created us, all of mankind, in Their image, male and female, and it was good. There are Judeo Christian Muslims today who honestly believe Adam and Eve were the two original seeds of mankind planted and breathed into by God 6,500 years ago. We know today, scientifically on the scale of Galileo relative to Christianity, that the North American continent was fully populated by human kind at least 12,000 years ago. We know that the DNA of those human beings is exactly the same as the Judeo Christian Muslim roots chronicled in the Bible.

    We do have “a common memory” but we honestly and painfully have to revisit it before we can be one community of mankind in the image of God again.

    Throughout the Old Testament we get a history not unlike the truth of convenience hiding our shame as is still taught in our schools, public and parochial. The ignorant can’t repent from what they do not know. We have a clear view from a very patriarchal perspective of mankind trying every which way to make God in the image of mankind while God is continually intervening to tell mankind that we are being childish in our destructive sibling rivalries. Within the Old Testament we do have a thread of a MESSIAH prophesy that the inspired patriarchal scribes could not have imagined enough to hide to fit their self-centered purposes. Jesus did not save us from God’s wrath but saved us from our egotistic idolatry, misusing the Lord God’s name for our purposes, forcing continuous work without rest to re-create, dishonoring our roots, murdering ourselves, dishonoring spousal vows, stealing/usurping from ourselves and God, witnessing falsely against our merciful neighbor, and most importantly coveting what we were not responsible to in our name as were the owners.

    Jesus was progressive in every sense of the word today. Jesus spoke against all forms of intimidation, manipulation, subjugation and usurping God’s authority (particularly the Father’s). The surviving apostles and disciples were not as progressive and regressed to influencing subtle but egotistic right of rites in worship while denying an altruistic love of all of mankind, all nations, in the image of God. Nothing as recently clear as the influence of the Christian church in the early Americas where the natives were branded pagans and enslaved physically, mentally and spiritually to build and maintain large cathedrals in the name of the conquering God.

    The MESSIAH would have walked into any Native American Nation and spoke of the love of the Father for all in God’s image. I am convince by what lives today in my heart and mind Jesus would have quoted the history of each tribe to substantiate that He knew their hearts and minds as well as their traditions.

    The Jewish people were chosen only to maintain the covenant within a temple ritual that would be undeniably telling of the coming of God on Earth that we would recognize. Jesus’ mission on Earth was to fulfill the Jewish living scripture so that the rest of the nations on Earth would have a small but beginning example of God that they could understand and live with. At Jesus death the covenant, symbolized by the torn curtain of the Holy of Holies, was released to the entire Earth and all of mankind to share.

    My point today is that altruism is the goal where truth is found but egotism is where we begin at our carnal birth as a new born. Without Jesus’ omnipresent teaching and guiding, through the Holy Spirit residing in our hearts and minds, we are lost to our beginning finite perspective of survival because we keep going back to our birth of self with everything else revolving around us.

    Jesus, walking on Earth, took each step one at a time and focused on the Jewish nation as the chosen example for mankind to know God as loving and not vengeful.

    Mark, I get the feeling that the Spirit is alive and well in your heart and mind guiding. I see you moving one step at a time. You were very clear in a short space above that the spirit of destructive to mankind egotistic coveting between others, in a war of survival between us and them, is destructively alive and well, also, today.

    I support, in all ways, getting to the Truth. It may take an eternity to become one with the Truth but I refuse to abide by lies simply because they are the most convenient in the moment.

    You wrote, “Rather, I think the worst victims of historical trauma in the United States is the white descendants of European immigrants and the rest of the dominant culture.” I am one but I have been saved to be nursed back to health by my merciful diverse neighbors of mankind throughout the nations and cultures of the world. I am one member of one species, human kind, as a carnal child of Man. I am not in the image of God nor human kind other than as a small child member. One mankind is in the image of one creator God, not the other way around. No one member of mankind on Earth is any more or less loved by God than another, from any nation and/or heritage.

    Jesus and our Father has made it possible for the spiritual me (my heart, soul, strength and mind) to be a little child of God today. Jesus has made it possible for me to be a student (disciple) of His today and ever so slowly the truth is unfolding, much wonderfully but too much painfully, as He knows I am ready. One truth that I know for certain is that our creator God loves us with all Their hearts, souls, strengths and minds combined. Two components of love is empathy and compassion that unite our hearts and minds together to feel and think together as one for one another. I have great empathy for all of mankind whom I am grace to be aware of who has come before me and shares with me today. My compassion can very often be overwhelmed when I consider the destructive ignorance we of Man mostly have had to labor under at the blind will of ourselves. We need truth and we need to face the truth as we are capable to deal with it. The key word here is WE, one mankind.

    Mark, thank you for all your efforts to help us to understand who WE are. Together WE can handle the Truth.

    Love you!

  • Herm

    Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

    [“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”” Mark 1:14-15 (NRSV)]

  • lapona

    You’re so weird, man! After an article that has absolutely nothing to do with Christian nonsense, and with a comment of Mark “The United States of America is not rich and powerful because of God’s blessing.”, you spout so much nonsense about your Christianity?

    Moreover, you conclude with “Mark, thank you for all your efforts to help us to understand who WE are.” Who are we? What I know is that we founded our country using some atrocities that we don’t like to mention in our history.

    “Love you!”??? WTF?

  • lapona

    Actually those who feel they are Christian Euro-Americans should feel the guilt for the disaster they brought in the “New World”. When the US took its independence from a religious state (England) the damage was already done to the Natives by Christians. As a secular state, the US has tried to make some reparations, but Christians are still obstructing and muddling the church/state separation principle.

  • Herm

    “WE” are one mankind in the image of one God. Perhaps you didn’t notice the venue is Christian, Mark (the author) is a spiritual man of Navajo Dutch ancestry, was utilizing the Chaplain’s Study of the LA Union Rescue Mission and my comment was addressed to Mark to accept or reject.

    WTF do you mean “WTF?”?

    Love that you at least know “that we founded our country using some atrocities that we don’t like to mention in our history”. What do you intend on doing about that knowledge, you are now responsible to, especially since the atrocities have not stopped?

  • lapona

    You must be a very, very clairvoyant man to see that someone from Navajo Dutch ancestry is part of “WE -mankind in the image of one God”… or maybe not, you’re just horsing around on Pegasus :)
    WTF means “Wonderful Tact, Friend”, or sometime just an expression of disbelief, or maybe Wednesday, Thursday, Friday”. Just guess in the context :)
    I am doing my part in debunking Christianity, the religion that started all that mess in the “New World”

  • Alison Siewert

    Dear ‘lapona’ person, you are really stuck. Why — if you are so intent on “debunking” faith in Jesus — are you roaming around a faith-based blog yammering on and on (and on) at every single comment? Pull yourself together and if you really dislike Christianity so much, go find something else to do. Knit blankets for someone in need or start a food drive or address justice in your neighbourhood. You have options, dude. Mark is as clear a Christian as you’ll find anywhere; he is neither product nor proponent of cultural christianism. He’s a vigorous follower of Jesus, and that’s a whole other thing than the tackling dummy you’re…uh, tackling.

  • lapona

    I don’t know form where you pulled a Christian from Mark as he said: “The United States of America is not rich and powerful because of God’s blessing.” The post is not about praising Christianity but to bring out atrocities that are not mentioned in the US history, atrocities to which some Christians contributed.

    Moreover, Herm says that Mark is a spiritual man of Navajo Dutch ancestry, that means Christians imposed their religion on Natives, and that was the curse that went upon Natives and that destroyed and destroys the US.

    Those were some Christians who brought slavery in the US, not the Natives, not the atheists, no other religions. I don’t feel that this blog is a religious blog, and even if it was, we all have the freedom to express our thoughts.