How the Doctrine of Discovery started us in the wrong direction, and how tribal sovereignty and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples get us back on course.
Doctrine of Discovery – a Persistent Legacy of Colonization
The Doctrine of Discovery, In the Name of Christ: A 43-minute documentary created for Mennonites, and produced by Eclectic Reel. The film, available on YouTube at the link above, explores the basis of the Doctrine in Christian theology, its continuing effects on Indigenous Peoples, and steps that Christians might take to remove its power. The film features interviews with Indigenous scholars, leaders and activists from around the world, as well as Christian theologians and pastors. Made for wider Christian audiences in addition to the Mennonites. A study guide and related materials are also available on line.
“The Doctrine of Discovery” Unmasking the Domination Code – A 60-minute documentary presented by Sheldon Wolfchild (Dakota) and Steven Newcomb (Shawnee/ Lenape). Available for about $22 from www.38Plus2Productions.com based on Steven Newcomb’s book, Pagans in the Promised Land.
Doctrine of Discovery: An internet-based educational resource and study group maintained by the Indigenous Values Initiative and the American Indian Law Alliance. The site features timely news of cases and takings that continue to be based on the Doctrine of Discovery. The site also includes news of actions taken by faith groups, including Quakers, along with legal references and information on the Papal Bulls that form the basis of the Doctrine.
Laws and Tribal Governments
Tribal Nations and the United States: An Introduction: a publication by the National Congress of American Indians. The 47-page book provides an authoritative, accessible and colorful overview of the history and current life of tribal governments. A book to peruse and refer to many times. Available as a .pdf through the link above.
Tribal Sovereignty and Governance, Friends Committee on National Legislation website, June 2017. A short read.
A brief (15 minute) film on the history of the five Wabanaki tribes in what is now Maine by Penobscot historian Maria Girouard. At the end, Girouard speaks of the hope she finds in the Seven Fires Prophecies – a call to all peoples to join in healing at this time in history. The history of the Wabanaki is both specific and iconic of the treatment of all the tribes. Giroard’s hope is inspirational and good starter for a study group.
The Legacy of Injustices Against Native Americans: Brief readings and reflections from Network, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby. Includes a program and a prayer of lament and commitment.
In the Courts of the Conqueror: The 10 Worst Indian Law Cases Ever Decided, by Walter Echo-Hawk, 2010. This book explores the forces at work in the “dark side” of federal Indian law that render Native American rights vulnerable today. … After touring these rulings, Echo-Hawk gives the pathway for reform to make U.S. law more just.
The Doctrine of Rights
In the Light of Justice: The Rise of Human Rights in Native America and the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Walter Echo-Hawk, 2013. This book explores the proposition that Native American rights are inalienable human rights. It urges Indian Country to stride toward the human rights framework created by the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – a reference and a mighty good read. This is what the world is talking about. When the UN General Assembly approved this Declaration in September 2007, only four member states voted against it: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. Finally, in 2010, the United States agreed to be the last to endorse it – although, even then, with many caveats and exceptions. Each of the 46 articles merits exploration and discussion.
The Canadian Friends Service Committee has invested years of hard and well-informed work in support of the Declaration. The Committee provides a number of resources, including these, as a starting place:
46 Indigenous representatives made a 5 and a half minute video to present a short version of the Declaration.
Fact sheet on myths and misrepresentations: The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples & Bill C-262. (2018)
Fact sheet on interpreting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (2018)
Fact sheet on free, prior and informed consent. (2018)
Educational resource developed by KAIROS with support of multiple member churches seeking to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (2017)
Frequently asked questions about the Doctrine of Discovery. (2015)
And there’s even more where these came from!