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Indigenous peoples of the Commonwealth including Belize seeking colonization apology, reparations

Posted: Monday, May 8, 2023. 9:36 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Guardian (UK) reports that campaigners for republic and reparations movements in 12 countries, including Belize, have demanded by letter that King Charles III make a formal apology for the effects of British colonization, make reparations by redistributing the wealth of the British crown, and return artifacts and human remains.

The letter, released ahead of his coronation on Saturday, reads, “We, the undersigned, call on the British Monarch, King Charles III, on the date of his coronation being May 6, 2023, to acknowledge the horrific impacts on and legacy of genocide and colonization of the Indigenous and enslaved peoples.”

Noting that in an address to Commonwealth heads of government in June of 2022 that the time had come for a conversation on acknowledging wrongs of the past, the letter asks that that conversation start “immediately” with a commitment to discussing slavery’s enduring impact; reparations for “the oppression of our peoples, plundering of our resources, denigration of our culture and to redistribute the wealth that underpins the crown back to the peoples from whom it was stolen;” and repatriating human remains in British museums and institutions, and the return of cultural treasures and artefacts.

The letter says the taking of such artifacts came through “hundreds of years of genocide, enslavement, discrimination, massacre, and racial discrimination by the authorities empowered by the protection of the British crown”. “The British crown deliberately engineered our displacement for many generations to come, but they have not succeeded,” the writers said. “It is time to dismantle this system so we can rebuild one that works for everybody.”

The letter also asks the royal family to acknowledge the renunciation of the “doctrine of discovery” by Pope Francis last month, and to adopt the same stance in order to “start the process of consultation and reparations for the First Peoples who suffered the consequences of native genocide in fulfillment of that doctrine in the name of God”.

The doctrine of discovery refers to a disputed feature of international law that aimed to justify colonialism, traced back to decrees issued by the Vatican in the 1400s to European kings to authorize their travel and possession of new lands.

In April, the Vatican issued a statement saying that doctrine “is not part of the teaching of the Catholic Church”, but that papal bulls issued at that time “did not adequately reflect the equal dignity and rights of Indigenous peoples”.

 

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