Sign the Petition - 

- Press Releases -

- Alliance - 

- History -


Timeline of the Efforts by Indigenous Nations and Peoples

Calling upon the Vatican Revoke the Inter Caetera Papal Bull of 1493

Timeline prepared by THE GRANDMOTHERS YOUTH FORUM Native Village

1972: Vine Deloria, Jr. writes about the 1493 Inter Caetera papal bull in his book, “God Is Red.”

1984: The ANASAZI Alliance writes to the Catholic Church asking for the papal bull of 1493 to be annulled by Pope John Paul II. The letter is channeled through the Secretary of State of the Vatican, and back to Bishop Thomas O’Brien of the local diocese in Phoenix, Arizona. The ANASAZI Alliance receives a response from the local archdiocese expressing hope that they all have jobs.

1992: The Indigenous Law Institute begins a global campaign to call upon Pope John Paul II to formally revoke the Inter Caetera papal bull of 1493.

1992: In August, Indigenous Law Institute meets with the Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth in Yelm, Washington to discuss the papal bulls and their connection to the 1823 Johnson v. McIntosh U.S. Supreme Court decision and federal Indian law. A document is drafted entitled, “Traditional Council of Indian Elders and Youth Communique No. 15, Discovery – Heathens – Slavery – Religious Freedoms, 1492-1992.”

1992: The Indigenous Law Institute, represented by Birgil Kills Straight (Oglala Lakota) and Steven Newcomb (Shawnee/Lenape) travels to Milan, Italy along with Jacquie Bird (Lakota) for a multi-city tour in northern Italy, stopping near Basel, Switzerland to publicize the papal bulls issue.

1993: In February, Steven Newcomb and Birgil Kills Straight travel to Aotearoa (New Zealand) for an elders gathering where they publicize the issue of the papal bulls.

1993: Some 60 indigenous representatives draft a resolution at the 1993 Parliament of World Religions calling for the revocation of the Inter Caetera papal bull. The resolution is approved by consensus at the plenary session of the Parliament. The vote is overturned the following day by Parliament of World Religions, Mr. David Ramage.

1993: The Indigenous Law Institute writes a letter to Pope John Paul II, calling upon the pope to formally revoke the Inter Caetera papal bull of May 4, 1493. The letter is delivered by the UN Human Rights Centre to the Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations. The Human Rights Centre is assured that the letter will be sent on to the Vatican in Rome. The Institute receives no response.

1993: Steven Newcomb travels to Cairns, Australia for an Indigenous Intellectual Property Conference. A resolution is passed calling for the revocation of the papal bulls.

1994-1995: The Indigenous Law Institute again travels to Northern Italy to publicize the papal bulls.

1997: In October, a group of human and indigenous rights activists gather outside of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Honolulu, Hawai'i to symbolically burn copies of the 1493 papal bull Inter Caetera. This becomes an annua event. Tony Castanha (Taino) and others begin effectively publicizing the issue of the papal bulls on the internet.

1999: In February, the United Church of Christ, sponsored a UCC Resolution, passed by Pacific Islander and Asian American Ministries (PAAM), resolving that “President Paul Sherry on behalf of the United Church of Christ urge and calls upon people of conscience in the Roman Catholic hierarchy and in other organized religions to persuade Pope John Paul II to revoke the papal bull Dum diversas of 1452 and Inter Caetera of 1493 by the year 2,000.”

1999: The Indigenous Law Institute attends the National Catholic Gathering for Jubilee Justice, at the UCLA campus. A committee of Catholic laity draft a petition titled, “National Catholic Gathering for Jubilee Justice: A Call for the Revocation of the Inter Cetera Bull.” The petition called upon Pope John Paul II to revoke the Inter Caetera papal bull of 1493. It is hand delivered along with the pamphlet “Pagans in the Promised Land” to Cardinal Mahony of the Archdiocese in Los Angeles, and to Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, Pope John Paul’s personal emissary to the Jubilee event.

1999: Tony Castanha is invited to be on a panel at the Hague Appeal for Peace in the Netherlands to discuss the papal bulls. He drafts an essay for the occasion entitled, “Christian Universalism and the Movement to Revoke the Papal Bulls.” Nalani Minton (Kanaka Maoli - Hawai'i) and Steven Newcomb draft “The Pu’uhonua Peace Pact” that, among other things, asks the world community to call for the revocation of the papal bull of 1493.

2000: In August, a letter to the Prefecture of the Papal Household and to the Most Reverent Eminence Re is co-written by Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo, Diocese of Honululu, and Tony Castanha, Project Director for the Matsunaga Institute for Peace – requesting a private audience with Pope John Paul II on Wednesday 11 October 2000. Others who were advising the effort to organize a trip to the Vatican were Daniela Minerbi (Italy), Dr. Ralph Summy (Australia), Steve Newcomb, Naniki Reyes Ocasio (Taino), Birgil Kills Straight, Nalani Minton, Russell Means (Oglala Lakota) John Trudell (Santee Sioux), Rev. Kaleo Patterson (Kanaka Maoli), Lynette Cruz (Kanaka Maoli), Hank Raymond (Okanogan), Dr. Johan Galtung (Norway), Dr. Lou Ann Ha’aheo Guanson (Kanaka Maoli), Robert Borrero (Taino/Boriken), Richard Salvador (Belauan/:Palau –Micronesia), Eric Po’ohina (Kanaka Maoli), and Joshua Cooper (Hawai’i).

2000: In October, a delegation of Indigenous representatives travel to Italy, where they meet with the Vatican Council for Peace and Justice, travel to northern Italy, and later hold a prayer circle at the Vatican on October 12, 2000. Steven Newcomb symbolically returns the Inter Caetera papal bull to the Vatican by carrying a copy of the bull up the steps to the entrance of the papal residence and asks the Swiss guard to have it delivered to the pope.

2001: In June, “National Conference on Peacemaking and Conflict Resolution 2001,” on the occasion of the 10th Biennial Conference JustPEACE Training Institute & Summit, George Mason University, General Plenary Session, June 9, 2001, Address on the Revocation of the Papal Bull Inter Caetera, edited by Tony Castanha for the Kosmos Indigena, Matsunaga Institute for Peace and the United Confederation of Taino People.

2003: The Seventh Annual burning of the papal bull takes place in Honolulu Hawai’i.

2004: The International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers forms as a global alliance of prayer, education and healing for our Mother Earth. They will eventually call for the revocation of three papal bulls from the fifteenth century.

2004: The Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples in Quito, Ecuador addresses the issue of the papal bulls.

2005: In May, a side-event is convened at the United Nations Church Center, during the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The event, co-sponsored by the American Indian Law Alliance and the Flying Eagle Woman Fund, is entitled “Challenging the Doctrine of Discovery, Christianity, the Papal Bulls, and Manifest Destiny.” A letter is written to Pope Benedict XVI calling upon him to formally revoke the Inter Caetera bull of 1493.

2005: In July, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations writes to Steven Newcomb at the Indigenous Law Institute responding to a request for information on the work of the Pontifical Committee for Historic Sciences regarding the papal bull Inter Caetera. No information had been found. In the letter, Archbishop Celestino Migliore states that “taken from the context of the political climate at the time, the notion of international law and the geographical notions then extant, the bull Inter Caetera, like other documents of that era, has become ipso facto obsolete and with no effect.”

2005: In October, the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers writes to Cardinal Kasper at the Vatican, calling upon Pope Benedict XVI “to retract the Dum diversas bull, the Romanus Pontifex bull, and the Inter Caetera bull [and] all related doctrines. They received no response.

2005: In November, Tlahtokan Nahuacalli delivers “The Legend of Truth and the Doctrine of Power,” to the Secretariat of the Continental Indigenous Summit. In part, the document calls attention to the issue of the Papal Bull Inter Caetera of 1493.

2006: In August, Summit of Indigenous Nations convened at Mato Paha (Bear Butte) passes a resolution calling for a rescission of the doctrine of discovery and related documents, specifically the Inter Caetera bull of 1493.

2007: In May, a small delegation of Indigenous representatives sit down with Archbishop Migliore for a meeting regarding the effort to have the papal bull of May 4, 1493 formally revoked.

2007: In July, Chief Oren Lyons (Faithkeeper, Onondaga Nation) receives a letter from Archbishop Migliore saying that in the view of the Holy See, the papal bull Inter Caetera has been abrogated a number of times in a number of different ways.

2008: In April, at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York, Chief Lyons, Tonya Gonnella Frichner (Onondaga) and Steven Newcomb deliver a letter and document of response to the representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, along with a copy of Steven Newcomb’s new book, “Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery” (2008).

2008: In July, International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers travel to the Vatican to deliver a statement calling for the revocation of bulls Dum diversas, Romanus Pontifex, and Inter Caetera from the fifteenth century.


Back to top
Back to top