My old friend Tupak Huehuecoyotl died earlier this week. He was a great organizer and spiritual leader. I met him back in 2010 when we shared a jail cell while protesting Arizona’s infamous anti-immigrant law SB1070. We subsequently stood trial together and were both acquitted.
While we in the county jail, and for many years after, he helped me to understand the ways in which the anti-immigrant laws and the construction of borders were connected to the ongoing process of the colonization of Abya Yala. He placed dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery at the core of his work. I had the privilege of collaborating with him and many others, including Susan Frederick-Gray, on getting the Unitarian Universalist Association to repudiate the Doctrine.
We kept in touch over the years and spoke on the phone every few months. During the pandemic he participated in First Unitarian Universalist’s ministers’ forum. We had a powerful conversation about the history of pandemics and how the spread of COVID-19 was connected to colonialism. The last time I saw him was in the spring of 2022 when I was in Phoenix presenting a paper on the origins of replacement theory. Partially drawing on our many conversation, I traced that disgusting white supremacist trope back through the Doctrine to the Catholic conquest of Al-Andalus and the Catholic crusades of Northern Europe when a long line of popes issued a number of papal bulls to justify the expropriation of non-Christian lands. I’ll be presenting a further developed version of that paper at a conference on The Religious Origins of White Supremacy: Johnson v. M’Intosh and the Doctrine of Christian Discovery early next month. I suspect that Tupak will be with me in spirit when I do. Rest in power, old friend.