Instruments of Blessing or Destruction

As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.

As a parent I have had a lot of laughs, but I have also had lots of frustrations. This is not a huge revelation, but there is one situation I used to see regularly: When it was time to go somewhere, there was often a race for the front seat. The reasons were centered on two things: The first was, “I was here first,” and second one was, “You’ve already been in the front seat, so it’s my turn.” There was this sense of well-thought-out reasoning behind every attempt to get the front seat or keep the front seat. Yet when I was kid, my place was the back seat and there were no arguments about it. I never would have thought to ask or argue otherwise. Yes, every generation has a unique perspective than the one coming after them on many different issues.     

When settlers came to this country, they took over the land and resources the Indigenous people had shared with each other for centuries. This takeover was based on what was called the Doctrine of Discovery. There are several articles you could read on the Doctrine of Discovery and how it came about, but the best way to summarize it is with three points. These are matters of fact and not meant to cause division.

  1. There was a legal reasoning that goes back to the 1400s that came from Rome. This 1493 Papal Bull stated that it was the legal and moral right of European settlers to take over what is now called the country of Canada—to take it from the Indigenous people, to claim it as their own conquered land, even though Canada had been inhabited for hundreds of years.
  2. This legal and ethical grounds for taking over these lands was based on the settlers saying that these are unchristian lands and they need to be Christianised. What use could these pagan peoples have in making use of all those resources? God has told us in his word that we are to go and subdue creation and rule over it (based on the biblical creation story). So these early settlers, based on the Doctrine of Discovery, wanted to subdue other humans rather than other parts of creation such as plants and animals.
  3. This was used as a tool to colonize many Indigenous peoples around the globe, including Canada’s Indigenous people, and it came from a view of superiority and domination. We need to civilize the people we come across as we are discovering new lands, because we are the only ones who can handle and use these resources, and we know best. Plus, this legal and ethical force is coming from Rome itself, so how wrong can it be? They thought they knew better and Indigenous people were inferior.

There have been several cases that have gone through the courts right up until the 21st century in favor of the Doctrine. This is a topic for another time, but the truth I am conveying is that this Doctrine is still being played out. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action in 2015 have call numbers 45, 46, and 49 addressing this Doctrine that needs to be dismantled. 

Getting Educated

Whenever one country comes and colonizes another country, there is always an underlying motive or justification for doing so. Many people groups throughout the ages have been colonized by other people groups. The Europeans, the British Empire, or the ancient Roman Empire in biblical times. The Indigenous people of Canada and the Native North Americans of the USA are just one group that have been victims of colonization. 

Many people don’t understand what really happened to the Indigenous people of North America, though as time goes by, more and more people are becoming educated on the truth. Still, more education is needed to truly start understanding why there is still tension today between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. 

The average citizen knows the surface truths about what happened, such as the basics of the fur trade or some of the early missionary efforts. Yet to truly know the reality of what happened, one must go deeper into the annals of history within North America and start to unfold the onion, bit by bit, to get to the core—to see all the layers for what they are and to see the real truth of what happened and what might still be happening under the guise of superiority.

A Plan for Destruction

As believers in Jesus, we know the devil is not on our side. According to 1 Peter 5:8-10, the devil is out to destroy us. It says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” Although the early settlers came with what is known as the Doctrine of Discovery, Satan has come with a Doctrine of Destruction that is intended to overtake Christianity. 

Many times over the years the devil used certain groups and individuals to bring forth his purposes of destruction. In fact, when we look at Ephesians 2:1-3, we see that our struggle is against the world, the flesh, and the devil. This means we can’t always blame the devil or Satan for everything. We must take blame for some things ourselves, including the way the world is at any given time, in any given country.

The Doctrine of Discovery was a tool used by the world, the flesh, and the devil, from the 1500s on. Poking its destructive head out of the sand. The (devil) influenced the people of Europe, therefore, making an influence on the European powers of that day (the world), then certain individuals (the flesh) gave in to that pressure and mindset, and put into motion the Doctrine of Discovery. It was a combination of the world, the flesh, and the devil.  

It wasn’t something that happened overnight, and it wasn’t something that happened with just a handful of people. Several generations carried out this way of thinking and believing to meet their own selfish gains. They might have genuinely believed in what they were doing and thought it was very Christian and noble. But we know better now.

Moving Forward

Many of my fellow Indigenous brothers and sisters are incredibly angry about the layers of colonization that took place over 400 years. It’s also interesting that when we look at the people of Israel, they too were oppressed over roughly 400 years. Yet God released them into the desert to worship him. They wandered in the desert for 40 years, but God said he had a special plan for them, that the world would be blessed through them. Since Jesus Christ came to fulfill the role of Moses and Israel, being a blessing to the world is also the responsibility of all believers in Jesus.

We as believers in Jesus must decide whether we are going to be instruments of blessing to the world and our communities or instruments of destruction. The past is clear to us now. As Indigenous and Native American people, we can argue like children and say we were here first. Non-indigenous people can also say, “My parents and I were not part of what happened years ago, so I don’t want to be blamed anymore.”

With either group, it calls for mutual, intentional understanding that is rooted in the love of Jesus Christ. Without this love, there will be no progress. We can keep fighting over the front seat or talk like adults and see in what areas we can move forward together. Be a real blessing to each other. This was supposed to be the main idea from Jesus all along, wasn’t it?

About the Author

Parry Stelter is an Indigenous member of Alexander First Nation. Member of Hope Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton. Founder of Word of Hope Ministries and Doctoral Candidate in Contextual Leadership through Providence Seminary and University 

Visit his website at wordofhopeministries.ca.

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