Reverse the ideology of the Doctrine of Discovery

Various Indigenous groups and even some religions are calling for all Christian religions to repudiate the ideology of the Doctrine of Discovery — the feudal, race based, religious, and ethnocentric thinking that led Euro-American Christians to think that God had ordained them to take over the world.

That kind of thinking led to the development of international law that is called today the Doctrine of Discovery. I have written a book and several law review articles about the Doctrine and have called for governments and religions today to repudiate the thinking and mindsets behind the Doctrine and similar ideas like American “Manifest Destiny” and the Argentina slogan of the “Conquest of the Desert” that explains the 1879-81 Argentine “conquest” of the Pampas and Patagonia from the native inhabitants. (I am currently writing a book for Oxford University Press with Indigenous professors from Australia, Canada, and New Zealand about the Doctrine in our countries.)

Many others have written about the Christian Doctrine of Discovery and various aspects behind the development of the Doctrine in Europe and the adoption of Discovery into American law in Johnson v. McIntosh in 1823.

Indian Country Today reports on events at the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Australia Dec. 3 – 9.

Go to the link to read the entire story where the paper reports that Indigenous peoples from around the world attended the Parliament and many called on the Pope to repudiate the Christian Doctrine of Discovery.

Delegates came from diverse geographies and cultures, but the paper reports that they easily unified around the intersecting themes of the Doctrine of Discovery, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and climate change. The delegates articulated their concerns in a document called “An Indigenous Peoples’ Statement to the World Delivered at The Parliament of the World’s Religions Convened at Melbourne, Australia on the Traditional Lands of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation December 9, 2009.”

The final item is “To call upon Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican to publicly acknowledge and repudiate the papal decrees that legitimized the original activities that have evolved into the dehumanizing Doctrine of Christian Discovery and dominion in laws and policies.”

The Doctrine concerns indigenous people all over the world, because it continues to negatively affect people everywhere, said Philip Arnold, associate professor of indigenous religions in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University, and a member of the Haudenosaunee delegation.

Arnold, who is married to a Mohawk woman, participated on a panel with some members of the Haudenosaunee delegation where he discussed how the Doctrine even affects his own family.

A movement to repudiate the Doctrine is gaining steam among Christian churches since the Episcopal Church issued a resolution renouncing it and urging support of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples at its national meeting last summer. Last September, the Indian Committee of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends made a similar commitment.

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