Petition the Pope: Return Church Lands to Indigenous Hands


From the Doctrine of Discovery in the 15th century through the boarding and residential school era spanning the 19th and 20th centuries, colonialism and genocide perpetrated by the Catholic Church has wiped out millions of Indigenous People across the globe. Now headed by its most progressive pope, the Church should make reparations. Please read the petition below, and then add your name to Lakota Law’s call for Pope Francis to return sacred lands back to Indigenous hands.

Dear Pope Francis,

As the head of the Catholic Church, you have shown yourself to be a different kind of leader. Between your willingness to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery and your issuance of the climate encyclical Laudato Si’, you demonstrate an understanding that the Church has the dual responsibilities of reckoning with the past and planning for a livable future. Today, I respectfully request that you direct your flock to take the next step by returning colonized lands to Indigenous hands.

Indigenous Peoples the world over have suffered through a slow genocide, as lands they held sacred and respectfully stewarded for centuries were overrun by conquerors and colonizers who felt empowered and validated by the Doctrine of Discovery. In North America, that genocide was further perpetuated by the Church, which for decades oversaw private boarding and residential schools where Indigenous children stolen from their families suffered through painful assimilation practices, stripping them of their families and cultures — and often, their lives.

Under Your leadership, the Catholic Church has an opportunity to begin to right some of these wrongs. While the generational trauma suffered by Indigenous People can not be undone through any single action, a process of reconciliation which includes the return of lands to Indigenous stewardship would help remediate the climate crisis, restore public trust in the Catholic Church, and begin to heal Indigenous families and communities.

I respectfully ask you to help Indigenous People gain access to and protect sacred lands under state jurisdiction wherever possible and Church jurisdiction by directing those who follow your leadership to give land back to Indigenous stewardship. Specifically: Church properties on Native or First Nations reservations should be turned over to the people who live there; Church lands proximate to such tribal nations should be given to the nearest tribal government; and any Church holdings which could benefit a nearby Indigenous population should be made available to them.

Please continue to use your authority wisely, and move from words to action. Bless Indigenous populations with real gifts of land back. You can both protect the environment and benefit vulnerable peoples who consistently demonstrate a harmonious relationship with the Earth.