New Doctrine of Discovery Discussion Guide

View and download the new Doctrine of Discovery discussion guide.

“The First Sight of the New World: Columbus Discovering America”

In January UUA Trustees voted to place a responsive resolution repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery on the General Assembly business agenda. The Doctrine of Discovery—the legal justification for colonizing the Americas and subordinating aboriginal people—is a narrative unfamiliar to many Americans. The Doctrine is so deeply embedded in American and Western culture that it hides in plain sight. (more…)

A Call from our Arizona Immigration Justice Partners

Our partner organizations in Arizona have called for the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery and the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.  What do Unitarian Universalists need to know in order to respond faithfully to this call from our partners? This third post in our series was written by the Pacific Southwest District Executive Ken Brown. – Ed.

This past August a number of Arizona Unitarian Universalists met with community people we had been working with for a number of years on issues of migration and the border. The conversation was around what our partners in Arizona would like to see happen at our General Assembly.  Our partners gave us a very clear message that they would like us to pass a resolution calling on President Obama and his administration to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.  When this Declaration was adopted by all but four nations in 2007, the United States was one of the four not adopting it.  Three years later, in December 2010, President Obama adopted the Declaration, making the United States the last nation to sign on to this document.

Watch this video made by Tupac Enrique about Columbus from TONATIERRA, a Cultural Embassy of the Indigenous Peoples supporting local-global holistic indigenous community development initiatives in accord with the principle of Community Ecology and Self Determination.

As President Obama declared when he signed the Declaration, “What matters more than the words – what matters far more than any resolution or declaration – are actions to match those words.”  (more…)

Restoring Indigenous Peoples’ Rights: A Pathway from Australia to Arizona

At the January meeting, the UUA Trustees voted to place a responsive resolution to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery on the business agenda for the General Assembly.  What is the Doctrine of Discovery?  Why have our partner organizations in Arizona called for its repudiation?  How are we as Unitarian Universalist people of faith called to respond?  For the next several weeks, Cooking Together bloggers will address these questions.  This post was written by the Dave Weiman, who has been working with others to educate UUs about this issue. – Ed.

At 7:30 pm on December 3, 2009, Joy Murphy Wandin, senior woman of the Wurundjeri People, was the first person to greet the 6,000 plus people who had come together for the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia, with this traditional ‘Welcome to the Land’:

On behalf of the spiritual ancestors and the traditional owners of Melbourne, I invite you to Melbourne in 2009, for the Parliament of the World’s Religions to share in the traditions, culture and spirit of Australia. (more…)

Immigration and Indigenous Theology

At the January meeting, the UUA Trustees approved a motion to include a report from their Right Relationship Monitoring Committee on the Doctrine of Discovery in their report to congregations, as well as to place a responsive resolution to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery on the business agenda for the General Assembly.  What is the Doctrine of Discovery?  Why have our partner organizations in Arizona called for its repudiation?  How are we as Unitarian Universalist people of faith called to respond?  For the next several weeks, Cooking Together bloggers will address these questions.  This post was written by the Rev. Colin Bossen, who was arrested on July 29, 2010 in an act of civil disobedience. He describes how he learned about the Doctrine of Discovery- Ed.

I did not go to jail expecting to meet a theologian. But jail was where I met Tupac Enrique Acosta. Tupac, like me, was arrested in front of one of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s offices for protesting against Arizona’s anti-immigrant law SB1070 on July 29, 2010. Unlike me, Tupac had an analysis of the bill’s place in history that put it firmly within the context of the ongoing repression of the indigenous peoples of North America.

Tupac, who would probably reject the label theologian, is the leading figure behind the Phoenix-based Nahuacalli, an organization that describes itself as “A Cultural Embassy of the Indigenous Peoples.” He is also closely linked with Puente, the grassroots organization behind many protests against SB1070 in Phoenix, and Puente’s leader Salvador Reza. Understanding his views on SB1070 illuminates that, for some, the struggle over immigration is about something larger. (more…)

Writing the Children’s Immigration Curriculum

In this post, Mandy Neff, author of the newly published children’s RE curriculum, With Justice and Compassion,  shares  some of the background story behind the curriculum.- Ed.

My mother escaped as a teen during the Hungarian Revolution.  I grew up hearing her stories of running from soldiers, a long wait eating thin soup in a refugee camp, and finally several demanding years of learning English with the family that adopted her here in the US before she was naturalized.   I knew her immigration was no small thing.  But despite the difficulties, she was welcomed into a new culture when she arrived.  She was one of the lucky ones – and I have benefited from that.

After several years of Buddhist studies, I have learned the power of the Metta, or lovingkindness, meditation for myself.  Through its repetition of the same words for yourself, then a loved one, in ever-widening circles until you reach someone you consider an enemy and have to send them lovingkindness, it is a profound tool.  As a Religious Educator, I am always searching for ways to teach compassion and respect to our children and youth.  This was an ideal tool to give them. (more…)

With Justice and Compassion: Immigration Sessions for Children’s Religious Education

With Justice and Compassion

In the month of February, we will provide materials to help Unitarian Universalists of all ages engage in theological reflection and prepare for the work of Justice GA in Phoenix and the work of our local congregations in support of immigration justice. In this post, we are pleased and proud to announce the publication of With Justice and Compassion: Immigration Sessions for Children’s Religious Education, by Mandy Neff.

The four-session curriculum includes plans for children in grades 1-3 and children in grades 4-6, as well as plans for a Family Night, where children share what they have learned and take part in a service project.  Grounded in our second Unitarian Universalist principle and in the Buddhist lovingkindness meditation, the curriculum invites children to explore their own family stories while learning about immigration in the United States. It lifts up justice and compassion as guiding values as we consider immigration justice issues in our own time.

Please let us know if you use this program, and tell us how it comes to life in your congregation!

Pacific Central District Youth Prepare for Justice GA

In this post, Dylan Colbert, a youth who belongs to the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church, Walnut Creek, CA, reports on Pacific Central DYGT’s (District Youth Get-Togethers) focused on immigration justice issues. With the support of Mt. Diablo youth advisor Nancy Jasa, the youth are organizing educational events to help them learn more about the issues, and working on fund raisers to enable a large contingent of youth to attend Justice GA in Phoenix. – Ed.

The upcoming General Assembly in Arizona, focused on the inhumane treatment of America’s immigrants, has captured the attention of the youth in the Pacific Central District in California. In an effort to fully understand the immigration issues present today, youth in this district have organized a series of “DYGTs” -District Youth Get Togethers- so that they may understand the issues, brainstorm solutions, and raise money so that they may attend GA. As a youth in this district, I have been pleasantly surprised at the dedication shown by the other youth. Many of them have sacrificed weekends and many hours to researching immigration issues and leading events. So far, the youth have created and discussed a timeline of major events pertaining to American immigration policies and discussed terms relevant to immigration and how they apply to current situations. In future DYGTs, we hope to fully understand the different laws currently in place and continue fundraising so that we may send more youth to GA.

The DYGTs are an outgrowth of the excitement generated by a highly successful Immigration Conference at Mt. Diablo.  The Mt. Diablo congregation has financially supported youth attendance at General Assembly in Phoenix, including donating the proceeds of their craft fair to help with expenses. How has your congregation or your district included youth in your immigration justice work?  What plans have you made for fundraisers to support youth attendance at Justice GA?  Send us your stories! – Ed.


Dylan Colbert, a high school junior who is part of the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church, is one of the organizers of the DYGTs in Pacific Central District and plans to attend General Assembly in Phoenix.

Who Belongs Here? Exploring Immigration with Children and Youth

Many UU congregations are looking for help in engaging children and youth with immigration justice issues. In February, the UUA will publish a four-session curriculum for children. With this post, we publish an annotated list of websites and books about immigration compiled by religious educator Karen Scrivo as a course project at Starr King School for the Ministry. In this post, she introduces her project-  Ed.

When my Italian grandparents came to the United States as children during the early 1900s, they and their parents arrived at Ellis Island without papers, passports or visas. My grandma Rose Siciliano was about 7 and my grandpa Louis Scrivo was 12. Their families made the long arduous trans-Atlantic journey to escape the harsh poverty that gripped southern Italy.  They came knowing no English and with dreams of finding a better life in America.

Their stories are similar to those of many of today’s immigrants – except then there were no quotas for how many Europeans could enter the United States.  So their undocumented status did not brand them as “illegal aliens,” nor did they constantly look over their shoulders, worrying they might be deported.  Had they been coming from Mexico, they would have not have encountered high barbed wire fences or been detained or turned back by menacing border patrols.

My grandparents went to school, learned English and later met and married in Freeport, Pennsylvania.  A carpenter, my grandfather built a house and also worked in the coal mines near Pittsburgh. My grandmother sometimes worked as a seamstress for a local department store.  They raised three sons – my father Bill and his older brother Bob and younger brother, Vic and lived to see their many grandchildren. (more…)

“When a Stranger Sojourns with You in Your Land…”

This is one in a series of posts exploring the wisdom Jewish and Christian scripture and tradition offer as we strive to faithfully respond to immigration issues.  This post was written by Shawna Foster, student minister at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka, Kansas. It first appeared in the congregation’s newsletter- Ed.

I recently started to volunteer at VIDA Ministries on Monday nights. VIDA is a outreach ministry sponsored by 12 Presbyterian congregations in the Topeka, Kansas that provides free volunteer-led programs and activities for Spanish-speaking immigrants, including an ESL class along with homework tutoring and nursery for participants’ children. I  built their new website  and included a biblical quote at the bottom. It’s Leviticus 19:33, and clearly puts forth a call to care for the immigrants in our midst.

When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

The director of VIDA was totally surprised to learn that this instruction is in the Bible. I was surprised that he was surprised – wasn’t the call to care for the stranger who sojourns in your land the whole reason VIDA was a ministry of these churches? (more…)

Introducing … “The Journey Toward Phoenix” on blogtalkradio

I am pleased to be a guest speaker for this exciting new project organized by Rev. Carlton Elliot Smith of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, VA.  Here’s a chance to do some “cooking together” on immigration justice issues using talk radio as a medium- ed.

What if we could have a live national conversation among Unitarian Universalists about our Justice General Assembly this June? What if we could learn in real-time about what other congregations across the country were doing to address “Immigration as a Moral Issue”? What if there was an audio forum where UUs could be in dialogue with leaders in our movement about how to prepare for this unique gathering in our 50+ years of history?

It’s all happening, starting this Saturday, January 7, 4:00pm-5:00pm EST. Welcome to “The Journey Toward Phoenix”, an internet-based talk-radio program originating from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, Virginia. Each week, the program will provide a platform to showcase what local congregations are doing regarding the immigration issue in their communities, as well as providing information about resources available from the UUA as we look toward our Justice General Assembly in Phoenix, June 20-24. Leaders in our association will share experiences, plans, and details as they develop, and listeners will be able to call-in live to ask questions of our guests.

Among the topics we expect to cover over the next six months are youth involvement in Justice GA, the DREAM Act, Secure Communities, the emerging detention industrial complex, UU curricula and resources regarding immigration, participating in Justice GA on a budget, our public witness in Phoenix, and working with community partners.

This week’s topic is “Immigration as a Moral Issue.” The program will feature Marilyn Baker and Sarah Bazzi, co-conveners of the Immigration Working Group at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, Virginia, in the first half-hour. In the second half-hour, we welcome Gail Forsyth-Vail, Adult Programs Director at the Unitarian Universalist Association (and editor of this blog!). Listen in to the conversation this and every Saturday from 4 -5 PM Eastern. There’s a phone number on blogtalkradio page so you can pose a question of our guests or contribute a comment.

Looking forward to greeting you on the radio as “The Journey Toward Phoenix” becomes reality!


Rev. Carlton Elliott Smith is a Team Minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, VA. Throughout 2010-2011, much of his attention is going toward the congregational/denominational focus on justice for immigrants and their families.