Annual lecture series to highlight cultural injustice

photo: Mark Charles

A review of American history will take place during this year’s edition of the Melva Kauffman Lecture Series. Hesston College will host Mark Charles for a presentation titled “Creating Common Memory: The Doctrine of Discovery and Abraham Lincoln,” which will discuss the history of the doctrine and how it led to the genocide of millions of indigenous people in North America. Charles will give a lecture  Jan. 21, at 7 p.m. in the Hesston Mennonite Church sanctuary as well as several lectures and Loss of Turtle Island simulation on Jan. 22, all of which are free and open to the public.

The Doctrine of Discovery is a religious and legal concept that has been used for centuries to justify Christian colonial conquest, with U.S. Supreme Court rulings supporting this doctrine as recently as 2005. In 2014, Mennonite Church USA formed a group called The Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery that aims to “proclaim an Anabaptist spirit of discipleship rooted in the call to love of neighbor, seeking right relationship and reconciliation through active non-violence.” In addition to MCUSA ties, this topic accentuates the diversity and culture on the Hesston College campus and will present a new perspective on European colonialism.

“We are grateful that Mark is coming to campus,” said Lisa Longacher, development officer and member of the Melva Kauffman Lecture series committee. “His lectures will challenge us to think and to grow as we work for justice and peace for all.”

This annual lecture series is held in honor of Melva Kauffman, a 1936 graduate of Hesston Academy and a 1939 graduate of Hesston College, who was also an English and education instructor at Hesston College from 1944 to 1977. Following her death in October 2003, her family established this lecture series to continue supporting Kauffman’s lifelong interests in learning and the humanities.

The son of an American woman (of Dutch heritage) and a Navajo man, Mark Charles teaches with insight into the complexities of American history regarding race, culture and faith in order to help forge a path of healing and conciliation for the nation. He is one of the leading authorities on the 15th-century’s Doctrine of Discovery, its influence on U.S. history and its intersection with modern-day society. Charles co-authored, along with Soong-Chan Rah, the book titled “Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery.”


All events are free and open to the public.

Sunday, January 21

7 to 9 p.m. – Creating Common Memory: The Doctrine of Discovery and Abraham Lincoln, sanctuary, Hesston Mennonite Church
Talkback session and refreshments to follow.

Monday, January 22

8 to 8:50 a.m. – Special session for Peacemaking and Justice course, Room 8, Smith Center
11 to 11:30 a.m. – Radical Inclusivity, sanctuary, Hesston Mennonite Church
Watch via live stream.
11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Lunch and Learn, Sauder Rooms B and C, Bontrager Student Center
2 to 2:50 p.m. – Special session for Jesus and the Gospels course, Room 8, Smith Center
7:30 to 9 p.m. – Postponed due to weather – will be rescheduled at a later date
Loss of Turtle Island simulation, community center, Hesston Mennonite Church
This activity will attempt to recreate in a small way what it must feel like to lose the land you love. Experience deep conversations, true stories and the feeling of your space becoming smaller and smaller.