Doctrine of Discovery
Second half of Original People's Wisdom Food and Plant Medicine Panel - Starting around 8pm
Room: Permaculture Plaza
“The Doctrine of Discovery” created by filmmaker Sheldon Wolfchild is part two of a three-part documentary. Part two focuses on a little known subject traced back to Christopher Columbus’s so-called “discovery” of the lands now commonly known as “the Americas.” The “right of discovery” was adopted and used by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1823 in the case Johnson & Graham’s Lessee v. M’Intosh. The first Christian people to discover lands inhabited by non-Christians or “heathens” had asserted the “ultimate dominion” to be in themselves. On the basis of that religiously premised argument, the Supreme Court defined the land title of the Indians as a “mere right of occupancy.” The Christian power that claimed “ultimate dominion” could grant away the soil while yet in the possession of “heathens.” And this doctrine remains the Supreme Law of the Land in the United States.
Theologian Luis Rivera, who was interviewed for the film, points out in his book A Violent Evangelism: The Religious and Political Conquest of the Americas (1992), that an accurate history must account for the theological and religious justifications for claims of domination over the Indians. Shawnee-Lenape author Steven Newcomb, whose book Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Discovery (2008) is foundational to the film, points out that the language code of domination, metaphorically modeled after the Old Testament, is found in fifteenth century Vatican documents. It is that dominating language code which serves as the basis of the religious racism of U.S. federal Indian law and policy to this day. Watch the Trailer Here