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Unmasking the Doctrine of Discovery

Published: Feb. 24, 2023


The Pacific Yearly Meeting Indigenous Concerns Subcommittee will be offering a two-part interest group on the Doctrine of Discovery twice – in March and again in April. The Doctrine of Discovery (DoD) is at the base of our legal system governing Indian rights (and the lack thereof).

The Doctrine of Discovery – Film and Discussion

Wednesdays, March 8 & 22, 2023
          90 minutes starting
          7:00 PM Pacific = 8:00 PM Mountain
Sundays, April 16 & 30, 2023
          90 minutes starting
          3:00 PM Pacific = 4:00 PM Mountain

Contact Leslie Zondervan-Droz to get the link to these sessions:

The first of two sessions will feature a zoom screening of the film “The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code,” with brief discussion and sharing of reactions after the film. The follow-up session will give us a chance to think about where we go from here in moving toward right relationship with our indigenous neighbors, on whose stolen lands we live and worship.

The film explains how the “Doctrine of Discovery” was used to justify Europeans’ seizure of the lands of Indigenous peoples, Nations and Tribes in the name of “civilizing” and “Christianizing” them. This doctrine, set out in a series of Papal “Bulls” (formal written declarations of the Pope) in the 15th and 16th centuries, states explicitly that the “pagans” had no right to their lands, which, upon “discovery” by the agent of some “Christian Monarch,” immediately became that monarch’s property. The “pagans” could then be enslaved, killed, or treated in whatever manner the monarch decided. This Doctrine was explicitly incorporated into US law in the 19th Century. It remains the foundation of US “Indian Law,” and all legal title to real property (public and private) is derived through this doctrine. The US legal system continues to this day to use this Doctrine against Indigenous peoples.

from Gail Eastwood, Humboldt Friends Meeting