An Indigenous Peoples’ Statement to the World
Delivered at The Parliament of the World’s Religions
Convened at Melbourne, Australia
on the Traditional Lands
of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation
December 9, 2009
In keeping with the theme of this year’s Parliament: “Make a World of
Difference: Hearing each other, Healing the earth,” We, the Indigenous Peoples
participating in this Parliament hereby issue this statement:
We are Indigenous Peoples and Nations who honor our ancestors and care for our future
generations by preserving our lands and cultures. For thousands of years, Indigenous peoples
have maintained a fundamental and sacred relationship with Mother Earth. As peoples of the
land, we declare our inherent rights to our present and continuing survival within our sacred
homelands and territories throughout the world;
We commend the Australian government’s recent support for the United Nations Declaration
on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted on September 13, 2007. We call on all
governments to support and implement the provisions of the UN Declaration, particularly the
right of self-determination;
Since time immemorial we have lived in keeping with our sacred laws, principles, and
spiritual values, given by the Creator. Our ways of life are based on thousands of years of
accumulated ecological knowledge, a great respect for our Mother Earth, a reverence and
respect for all our Natural World relations and the survival of our languages, cultures, and
The Indigenous instructions of sharing and the responsibility of leadership to future
generations are wise and enduring. As the traditional nations of our lands we affirm the right
to educate our children in our earth-based education systems in order to maintain our
indigenous knowledge systems and cultures. These have also contributed to our spiritual,
physical and mental health;
Indigenous peoples concept of health and survival is holistic, collective and individual.
It encompasses the spiritual, the intellectual, the physical and the emotional. Expressions of
culture relevant to health and survival of Indigenous Peoples includes relationships, families,
and kinship, social institutions, traditional laws, music, dances, songs and songlines, reindeer
and caribou, ceremonies and dreamtime, our ritual performances and practices, games, sports,
language, mythologies, names, lands, sea, water, every life forms, and all documented forms
and aspects of culture, including burial and sacred sites, human genetic materials, ancestral
remains so often stolen, and our artifacts;
Unfortunately, certain doctrines have been threatening to the survival of our cultures, our
languages, and our peoples, and devastating to our ways of life. These are found in particular
colonizing documents such as the Inter Caetera papal bull of 1493, which called for the
subjugation of non-Christian nations and peoples and “the propagation of the Christian
empire.” This is the root of the Doctrine of Christian Discovery that is still interwoven into
laws and policies today that must be changed. The principles of subjugation contained in this
and other such documents, and in the religious texts and documents of other religions, have
been and continue to be destructive to our ways of life (religions), cultures, and the survival
of our Indigenous nations and peoples. This oppressive tradition is what led to the boarding
schools, the residential schools, and the Stolen Generation, resulting in the trauma of
Indigenous peoples being cut off from their languages and cultures, resulting in language
death and loss of family integrity from the actions of churches and governments. We call on
those churches and governments to put as much time, effort, energy and money into assisting
with the revitalization of our languages and cultures as they put into attempting to destroy
The doctrines of colonization and dominion have laid the groundwork for contemporary
problems of racism and dispossession. These problems include the industrial processes of
resource exploitation and extraction by governments and corporations that has consistently
meant the use of imposed laws to force the removal of Indigenous peoples from our
traditional territories, and to desecrate and destroy our sacred sites and places. The result is a
great depletion of biodiversity and the loss of our traditional ways of life, as well as the
depletion and contamination of the waters of Mother Earth from mining and colonization.
Such policies and practices do not take into account that water is the first law of life and a
gift from the Creator for all beings. Clean, healthy, safe, and free water is necessary for the
continuity and well being of all living things. The commercialization and poisoning of water
is a crime against life.
The negative ethics of contemporary society, discovery, conquest, dominion, exploitation,
extraction, and industrialization, have brought us to today’s crisis of global warming. Climate
change is now our most urgent issue and affecting the lives of indigenous peoples at an
alarming rate. Many of our people’s lives are in crisis due to the rapid global warming. The
ice melt in the north and rapid sea rise continue to accelerate, and the time for action is brief.
The Earth’s resources are finite and the present global consumption levels are unsustainable
and continue to affect our peoples and all peoples. Therefore, we join the other members of
the Parliament in calling for prompt, immediate, and effective action at Copenhagen to
combat climate change;
In July 2009, the Episcopal Church in the United States adopted a resolution at its 76th
General Convention, repudiating and disavowing the dehumanizing Doctrine of Christian
Discovery. By doing so, the Church took particular note of the charter issued by King Henry
VII of England to John Cabot and his sons, which authorized the colonizing of North
It was by this ‘boss over’ tradition of Christian discovery that the British crown eventually
laid claim to the traditional territories of the Aboriginal nations of the continent now called
Australia, under terra nullius and terra nullus. This step by the Episcopal Church was an act
of conscience and moral leadership by one of the world’s major religions. Religious bodies of
Quakers and Unitarians have taken similar supportive actions.
In Conclusion, we appeal to all people of conscience to join with us in support of the
- Climate Change and its far-reaching impacts on our Peoples and homelands—for this we
need immediate action.
- he protection Indigenous peoples significant and sacred sites within their traditional
homelands and territories and working to eradicate discrimination and intolerance against
earth based Indigenous spiritual and ceremonial traditions.
- Protection of Sacred Places used for prayer and ceremonies. At these special places we
Minister to the earth and heal her sacred soul.
- The critical need to strengthen and continue our unique cultures and languages,
particularly by bringing together elder cultural and wisdom keepers and Indigenous youth.
- The return of the bones of our ancestors and our sacred items.
- The immediate support and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- To call upon Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican to publicly acknowledge and repudiate
the papal decrees that legitimized the original activities that have evolved into the
dehumanizing Doctrine of Christian Discovery and dominion in laws and policies.