We began by going through a ‘smudge’ purification ritual officiated by a kindly Paiute elder, and then Solidarity with Indigenous

making an offering of tobacco to the Sacred Fire . It was good to start the Parliament by acknowledging the Spiritual Ecology of the First Peoples of this land.

- From “Deep Roots, Entwined Branches: Reflections on the Parliament of the World’s Religions” by Jason M. Brown

The Programs by and for the Indigenous Peoples at the Parliament

It was told long ago that the spiritual leaders of the Indigenous Nations would join on spiritual grounds with religious, faith, and spiritual leaders from around the world. Shoulder to shoulder in a great council, they would commit to work for peace and the Protection of Mother Earth.

The Parliament was honored to share and learn from the wisdom of the Indigenous Nations of the world and Utah. The Indigenous Nations from the Great Salt Lake region, the Great Basin, and the State of Utah extended a warm welcome to the people of the world into their spiritual and ancestral home, the ancient and sacred gathering place that is the Great Salt Lake.

The 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions Program was a first class and unique opportunity to share in and learn with the spiritual leaders of the Indigenous Nations gathered at the Parliament. 

The Parliament has a unique relationship with indigenous people not just in Utah but around the world

said Lewis Cardinal, Trustee of the Parliament and Chair of the Indigenous Peoples’ Task Force.

More than 30 Indigenous-led Panels and Workshops were presented throughout the Parliament, each with various topics in relations to the Parliament theme. 40 or more indigenous communities were represented in the 2015 Parliament’s indigenous programs from around the world.

Indigenous participants were an intentionally omnipresent dynamic of this Parliament, offering myriad spaces and activities around the Sacred Fire, throughout presentations and open mic sessions.

Parliaments have become a distinct venue for Indigenous communities to connect with each other and to convene around pressing and urgent issues. To build bonds of solidarity at the 2015 Parliament, spiritual leaders of the Indigenous Nations held a 3-day long program called the “Indigenous Dialogues.”


The Plenary

The crescendo of the Salt Lake Parliament happened on its final day when the Indigenous Communities of the world treated participants to an intrepid four-hour plenary. Concern for peace and justice, earth’s preservation, and disparity of resources was palpable.

Universal truths were told on that stage. Survival was intertwined with the sustainability of the earth. One simple credo could solve all of our shared problems: that we understand what it means to live with respect for all peoples.

The testimony of wisdom keepers recalled how indigenous communities told of the threats of climate change long before the rest of the world would listen. And although through conquest and modern pursuits the Indigenous Nations have endured the worst disenfranchisement and violations of human rights, the spiritual leaders of Indigenous traditions held out their hands in generosity.


One of the major connections made at the 2015 Parliament between indigenous peoples and attendees of other national and religious backgrounds happened in programs exploring the “Doctrine of Discovery.” Steven Newcomb’s keynote helped crystallize the commitments sought by all attendees when he stated:

“...It is time for the Christians and the Churches that are doing so to stop lying about our ceremonies. They need to stop telling our young people and others that our ceremonies are satanic or the work of the devil. This is killing many our young people who, deprived of their cultural and spiritual identity, in the traumatic wake of the boarding schools and residential schools of domination, are ending their lives prematurely.

Additionally, the governments and the churches need to begin putting as much time, effort, energy, and money into assisting with the revitalization of our languages, cultures, and spiritual traditions as they put into attempting to destroy them and our Sacred Places to begin with. Our Original Nations don’t need reconciliation, we need decolonization! We and the planet need healing from the traumabrought on by ongoing and chronic patterns of domination and greed.

Thank you to all the Christian churches and Christians who have expressed support for our efforts. We deeply appreciate it. We invite you to walk with us on the Sacred Path, in honor of the first principle of our Original Nations: “Respect the Earth as our Mother and have a Sacred Regard for All Living Things. End the domination. All Our Relations. Wanishi.”

Steven Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape) is co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, and author of Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (Fulcrum, 2008). He is a producer of the documentary movie, The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code, directed and produced by Sheldon Wolfchild (Dakota), with narration by Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree).