U.S. authorities and churches used a 15th century Papal decree, the Doctrine of Discovery to justify the appropriation of Indigenous lands.
This was a deliberate strategy to subjugate Indigenous people and extinguish their culture by assimilating them to non-Indigenous ways.
U.S. federal Indian policy forced Native American families to send their children to school, often to boarding schools far away from home. When Alyce Sadongei’s grandfather was a small boy, Tohono O’odham runners brought news to the villages that White people were coming to take their chidren. The villages consulted their leaders about what to do and plans were made to hide most of the children and to send only a few. Alyce’s grandfather was chosen to go as the oldest of the children in his family. It was a sad day when he and other village children had to get in the wagon to leave home and so his father gave him a special present to help him feel better -- a new hat. He traveled a long way by train to the Santa Fe Indian School. But days later when he arrived at the school, the first thing they did was take away his hat.
In 2016 the Presbyterian Church USA issued a public apology “for the pain and suffering that our church’s involvement in the Indian boarding school system has caused.”
In 2021 Deb Haaland, an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna, took office as the first Native American Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Under her leadership, the Department published Volume I of an investigation into Indian boarding schools.
For more information, see “A History of the Presbyterian Work Among the Pima and Papago Indians of Arizona,” a 1948 Master’s thesis by John Hamilton.
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Received by profession of faith
Leila W. Juan
When Alyce Sadongei’s mother Margaret Bucillio Sadongei was going to be married, the wedding was at the Papago Presbyterian church and she was going to walk to the church as she always did. But Alice Narcho told her, “You can’t walk to your own wedding in your wedding dress!” Alice made Margaret get into Alice’s father’s cattle truck, and he drove her around the block to her wedding.