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Final event in this year's KIPCOR series examines Doctrine of Discovery

September 11th, 2017

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The request of a long-time supporter and attender of the films screened on the Bethel College campus by the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution led to what will be the last event of the 2016'17 KIPCOR series.

There will be a double feature April 23 at 3 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium on the Bethel campus: a short YouTube video of Chief Oren Lyons, followed by the 30-minute documentary Reserve 107.

The KIPCOR Film Series is free and open to the public, with freewill offerings taken to help support the series and the work of KIPCOR.

Discussion leader for the talk-back session after the films will be John Stoesz, former executive director of Mennonite Central Committee-Central States in North Newton.

Oren R. Lyons Jr. is a Native American Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Seneca Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy (upstate New York). In the 1950s, he was known as a champion lacrosse player for Syracuse University and now, in his 80s, is a recognized advocate of indigenous rights.

In 1977, Lyons helped create the Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth at a meeting in Montana. Since then, the Circle has gathered annually at a different site in Indian Country.

Lyons can be seen in the documentary Faithkeeper, produced and hosted by Bill Moyers and broadcast on PBS (1991), and in Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary The 11th Hour (2007). In 1992, he addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations to open the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People.

On the video to be shown April 23, Lyons talks about the Doctrine of Discovery, a principle of international law with roots in a decree issued by Pope Nicholas V in 1452 that specifically sanctioned and promoted the conquest, colonization and exploitation of “non-Christian” territories and peoples.

The second feature, Reserve 107, documents how the Doctrine of Discovery continues to play out today in the small town of Laird, Saskatchewan.

For decades, starting in the 1970s, stories have circulated through Laird about First Nation descendants of the signers of an old treaty visiting shopkeepers and town officials. The First Nations insist that the treaty, made with the government of Canada, states the land actually belongs to them.

Then a group of Mennonites and Lutherans in Laird discover that the land they live on is in fact the former reserve of the Young Chippewayan First Nation.

They are forced to acknowledge the history that brought them to their present situation – the Mennonites who came to the Canadian prairies from Europe in the 1890s and the German Lutherans who joined them there a decade later were given land the Canadian government considered “abandoned” but the indigenous people did not.

A chief and a descendant of the Young Chippewayan Band invite the local community to a meeting at the central site of the former reserve, now called Stoney Knoll, which leads to a surprising discovery.

Myths, assumptions and fears shatter as an old injustice creates an opportunity for friendship and renews a fierce determination to repair the wrongs of the past.

The film includes interviews with local Mennonite farmers, the pastor of Laird’s Lutheran congregation, Young Chippewayan chiefs and others.

Major funding for Reserve 107 – a production of Rebel Sky Media and director Brad Leitch of Winnipeg – came from Mennonite Central Committee Saskatchewan and St. John’s Lutheran Church of Laird.

John Stoesz, the post-film discussion leader on April 23, is a descendant of Mennonites who came to the Great Plains of the United States at about the same time as the Mennonites of Laird, and received land that had been taken from the Dakota Nation and other Native American groups.

Since learning about injustices that stem from the Doctrine of Discovery in the United States, Stoesz has been an educator and advocate on the Doctrine and its implications, and ways to begin to address some of those injustices.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2016–17 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.