The Doctrine of Discovery is clearly illegal in the United States because of the separation of church and state. Native Americans were denied aboriginal rights since they were not Christians at the time of European discoveries.
This painting of Father Hennepin “discovering” what are now called St. Anthony Falls in downtown Minneapolis, hung for many years in the reception area of the Minnesota governor’s office at the capitol in St. Paul but has now been removed. Photo: State of Minnesota
By Susu Jeffrey Original to Rise Up Times October 11, 2020
According to Genesis 15:18 (date uncertain), God gave to Abraham and his descendants the land between the Nile and Euphrates rivers. According to Pope Alexander VI’s “Doctrine of Discovery” decree in 1493, European Christians could claim all non-Christian lands.
Cristobal Colon on the beach
on his knees
was discovered by the people of the island
who fed him.
Cristobal Colon was not headed for the East
when he sailed West
three ships full of trinkets
and no priest.[ii]
German philosopher Friedrick Nietzsche (1844-1900) reasoned in the 1880s that God is a fiction created by man to comfort mankind. God was invented by ancient Jews to give succor during the inevitable vicissitudes of life. God explains suffering and provides hope including future suffering for bad people. Some thinkers consider the idea of God a handy method of deferring people their due and instilling the belief that the afterlife would be a kinder, gentler existence. Nietzsche urged people to put efforts into establishing a heaven on earth rather than living with the expectation of “when I get to heaven.”
Author’s Note: My preferred definition of God is a traditional quote from Pliny the Elder, “God is man helping man.” Pliny was a Roman philosopher (23-79 CE) who died from exposure to Mount Vesuvius toxic volcanic fallout while trying to rescue survivors. Nietzsche repudiated the concept of the equality of people since that curtails personal achievement.
It is Difficult to Argue with God
In the Biblical Old Testament God orders the establishment of the land of Israel by warfare and the fierce displacement of indigenous inhabitants, indicating a place that is not exclusively the Jewish original homeland.
The idea of a Jewish homeland evolved from centuries of persecution, of abuse and banishment throughout Europe and especially during World War 2. The concept of establishing a home for the Jewish diaspora was floated in the West beginning in 1897 in a series of Zionist congresses held in Switzerland. Locations under consideration included the Russia-China border along the Amur River in the Far East and in Africa east of Lake Victoria in Kenya and Tanzania.
In 1900 in historic Palestine, 800,000 of the 840,000 residents were Palestinians. It was not a “land without people.” But two 20th-century world wars changed the maps.
In mid-World War 1, on November 4, 1917, the British foreign secretary issued a one-page, 117-word letter supporting a Jewish homeland in Palestine that came to be known as the Balfour Declaration. “…[N]othing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
With the end of “the war to end all wars” the Ottoman Empire collapsed and in dividing up the spoils Britain came to “own” Palestine by administrative force. Arabs who fought with the Allies against the Turkish Empire, Germany and Austria-Hungary and expected to be rewarded with nationhood were left out. The British encouraged a flood of Jewish immigration to Palestine and an undeclared war of Zionist terrorism began the ethnic cleansing of Arab people.
On May 14, 1948, the new nation of Israel was created in “part of Palestine” by a non-binding United Nations General Assembly recommendation that was never implemented by the Security Council and has no force of law. The Palestinian partition was opposed by the U.S. State Department nevertheless the U.S. immediately recognized “Israel” as did the Soviet Union giving it instant international status.
Jerusalem is considered a sacred site to 2.2 billion Christians, 1.6 billion Muslims and about 17 million Jews.
The Doctrine of Discovery
The Doctrine of Christian Discovery is a fiat issued by Pope Alexander VI in 1493 to claim and dominate people and land in Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the Americas. Promulgated “by the authority of Almighty God conferred upon us” the duty to embrace into the holy faith any peoples and lands found in the age of discovery.
The embraceable territory included everything “discovered and to be discovered towards the west and south, by drawing and establishing a line from the Artic pole, namely the north, to the Antarctic pole, namely the south…in order to instruct the aforesaid inhabitants and residents in the Catholic faith and train them in good morals.”
When Andrea Carlson, a local artist of Native descent, walks into the Capitol, she says, “I just start laughing. I see European fantasy paintings in this faux-classical style that is selling something really hard, like super propaganda. Keeping this artwork in a place of authority gives credibility to the idea of white racial supremacy.”
The Doctrine of Discovery has been applied in the United States since 1792 when Thomas Jefferson, then Secretary of State, “declared” the doctrine extended as international law from Europe to the United States. The doctrine was then applied in the United States since the U.S. won the War of Independence against Britain, a European colonial power.
The Supreme Court Supports the Pope
Cementing non-Indian land claims legally came with convoluted reasoning in a series of Supreme Court cases.
The foundational decision was in M’Intosh v. Johnson, 1823, where Chief Justice John Marshall writing for a unanimous Supreme Court argued for M’Intosh’s land claim and against Johnson’s in the Indiana Territory, apparently because of Marshall’s own extensive land holdings. Mr. Johnson had inherited the land which was purchased from the Plankeshaw tribe before U.S. independence. Before independence Marshall stated that land belonged to the discovering nation, Britain.
The Plankeshaw tribe was not a party in this case. Pan European rights of discovery established internationally recognized ownership rights to avoid warfare. Only occupancy rights were given to indigenous peoples, not land-holding rights. With this precedent, Cherokee, Suquamish and other aboriginal rights were squashed.
In 2005, “the Nortorious RBG,” Ruth Bader Ginsburg writing for majority decided against the Oneida Indian Nation of New York’s attempt to exercise sovereignty over repurchased tribal land. Because 200 years had passed since the tribe controlled the land it would cause too much upheaval for the city of Sherrill, the county and the state.
Upon reflection Ginsburg told colleagues that she regretted her Oneida v. Sherill decision more than any in her 27-year Supreme Court career. Before her death she offered advice about the next SCOTUS nomination on a court staffed by six Roman Catholics and three Jews. Ginsburg spoke of the import of an indigenous person on the high court and recommended consideration of Diane Humetewa of Arizona, an enrolled Hopi tribal member and the first Native American woman to become a federal judge.
Of course, the Doctrine of Discovery is clearly illegal in the United States because of the separation of church and state. Native Americans were denied aboriginal rights since they were not Christians at the time of European discoveries.
About 60 percent of the earth’s foodstuffs were developed by American Indians.
The people gave potato, tomato,
bean, corn and squash
a calendar more accurate than ours is,
to this day
we use aspirin, quinine
and bathe more than any Old-World nation..[ii]
Dakota Indians had about 300 recipes for oak acorns—everything from bread to soup. Columbus encountered peanuts in Haiti in 1492. Nuts, 47 kinds of berries, the incredibly nutritious avocado, American Indian food feeds the world.
When the Twin Cities staff of the National Park Service (NPS) did a controlled burn (5/2018) at Coldwater Springs atop the Mississippi River it maimed or killed a number of newly planted trees. The 27-acre park was a retired military-industrial complex originally developed to supply potable water to Fort Snelling from 1820-1920. After World War 2 it became a research and development campus known for filtering mine air to avoid black lung. In 1991 with the end of the Cold War the program was shuttered and the land left to nature, the homeless, neighborhood kids, historians, environmentalists and Dakota descendants.
In 2011 the National Park Service took over maintenance duties, cleared hundreds of trees, 11 buildings and brought in tons and tons of dirt fill to flatten the steep slope in order to create a prairie landscape. Turning parkland into a prairie is the fastest, cheapest way to prettify it. The Spring is a quarter mile above the Mississippi atop the only river gorge on the entire 2,320-mile river.
Clearcutting around a spring is considered environmental malpractice as it increases evaporation, rainwater runoff, and erosion. Photo: Friends of Coldwater
Coldwater was a 10,000-year old limestone spring flowing at 130,000 gallons per day in 1999, emptying into the Mississippi just above its confluence with the Minnesota River. Today Coldwater flows at about 68,000 gallons per day, just over half its rate 20 years ago.
Coldwater is the only remaining natural spring of size in Hennepin County and was used as an emergency drinking water supply in 1976. The birthplace of the state of Minnesota where soldiers who built Fort Snelling lived and a civilian community gathered, Coldwater was saved from modern development because it is an airport emergency landing zone amid mega apartment buildings, single family residences, and light industry.
All springs are considered sacred to the Dakota oyate (people) since spring water cleans itself naturally by filtering through land. Dakota leaders were forced to complete a paperwork process for sacred site recognition by the NPS. Like conducting treaty negotiations in English, acts of white supremacy continue to rule Native relations with the federal government.
The NPS newly planted little toothpick trees had just leafed-out when the “controlled” fire was set. When questioned about the scorched trees, NPS Natural and Cultural Resources director Alan Robbins-Fenger said “We’re learning.”
What the Indians
used to do, was,
to burn out the brush every year.
in the woods, up the gorges,
keeping the oak and pine stands
tall and clear
Fire is the old story.
I would like,
with a sense of helpful order,
with respect for laws
to help my land
with a burn, a hot clean
it would be more
when it belonged to the Indians
Excerpted from “Control Burn” by Gary Snyder, 1969
In the 1750s Benjamin Franklin, as colonial Pennsylvania’s Indian commissioner, espoused copying the Iroquois five nations Great Law of Peace by uniting the various American governments into a federation. Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson also lobbied to model American governance on democratic Native practices rather than reproducing European and Greek customs. It took a generation.
Division or separation of authority between civilian and the military
Elected, not hereditary representatives
Method to remove, impeach leaders
Allowing only one person to speak at a time (unlike the British system of shouting and interruption)
Caucusing toward compromise into a unified decision
Limited compensation for officials
Unfortunately, allowing women to choose new leaders was not adopted. In fact, women won the vote in 1920 after seventy years of struggle; four years later, in 1924, Native Americans achieved citizenship.
Christopher Columbus grounded at the Minnesota capitol, St. Paul. Photo: Native News Online, June 10, 2020
Might Make$ Right
It is difficult to see the hand of God in the 20th-century establishment of Israel in the middle of the oil-rich Arab Mideast—oil being the victor’s prize of World War 2. Pope Alexander VI’s 1493 Doctrine of Discovery likewise blesses the hubris of economic dominance.
[i] Amerigo Vespucci (14554-1512), Italian explorer and navigator who coined the term “New World” in his writings describing at least two voyages across the Atlantic. European mapmakers labelled the land discoveries America after his popular booklets.
[ii] Author Susu Jeffrey’s previously unpublished song, “Cristobal Colon,” based on Jack Weatherford’s INDIAN GIVERS: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World, Fawcett Columbine, New York, 1988.
Featured Image: Indigenous Peoples’ Day, CU Denver News