Upcoming Showings of the Doctrine of Discovery

There are two upcoming screenings of the documentary: Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code. Both events are free and open to the public!

Director and Co-Producer Sheldon Wolfchild of the Lower Sioux Indian Community will attend both events and be part of the post-film discussion. The events are:

  • Wednesday, April 13, 6:30-9:00 p.m. at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, 511 Groveland Ave., Minneapolis. For more details, here is the Hennepin Avenue UMC flyer.
  • Sunday, April 24, 5:00-7:30 p.m. at the Church of the Epiphany Episcopal Church, 4900 Nathan Lane North, Plymouth. For more details, here is the Epiphany flyer.


This Day in History: U.S. Supreme Court Adopts ‘Doctrine of Discovery

On this day in history, Feb. 28, 1823, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Johnson v. M’Intosh which adopted a secular form of 15th Century Papal decrees into U.S. case law. The decision said when explorers representing European monarchs “discovered” this land, it was the same as them taking title to the land.

Here is a verbatim from the decision, issued by Chief Justice Marshall:

On the discovery of this immense continent, the great nations of Europe were eager to appropriate to themselves so much of it as they could respectively acquire. Its vast extent offered an ample field to the ambition and enterprise of all; and the character and religion of its inhabitants [Native Americans] afforded an apology for considering them as a people over whom the superior genius of Europe might claim an ascendency. The potentates of the old world found no difficulty in convincing themselves that they made ample compensation to the inhabitants of the new, by bestowing on them civilization and Christianity, in exchange for unlimited independence.But, as they [European monarchs] were all in pursuit of nearly the same object, it was necessary, in order to avoid conflicting settlements, and consequent war with each other, to establish a principle which all should acknowledge as the law by which the right of acquisition, which they all asserted, should be regulated as between themselves. This principle was that discovery gave title to the government by whose subjects, or by whose authority, it was made, against all other European governments, which title might be consummated by possession. [Emphasis added.]

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International Native News Wrap: Doctrine of Discovery Protest; LaDuke on Protecting Rivers; Europe’s Indigenous People

Indigenous People Demand the Pope Revoke the Doctrine of Discovery, This Time in Mexico

Today and Wednesday, “a delegation of Indigenous Peoples from the United States, Mexico and other Latin American countries, will be in Chiapas, Mexico to deliver a message to Pope Francis, in the form of a call to conscience petitioning him to take action and issue an official denunciation directed towards the dismantling of the “Doctrine of Discovery of Christendom,” according to an announcement from the Continental Commission Abya Yala.

This continues the work of two previous events, one in Columbia (2013) and the other in Pennsylvania (2015) when the Pope visited the United States.

Mexico has its own version of how the Doctrine of Discovery has affected government policies and indigenous peoples, as the Abya Yala announcement explains: Continue reading

This Day in History 1955: Alaskans Natives Lose Property Rights to the Doctrine of Discovery

On this day in history, Feb. 7, 1955, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Tee-Hit-Ton Indians v. United States, a modern case of how the courts have applied the Doctrine of Discovery.

This case involved the Tee-Hit-Ton Indians, a clan of the Tinglit Indians in Alaska. The U.S. Department of Agriculture sold timber rights on their land to private interests. The Tee-Hit-Ton sued for compensation and lost.

The case started in the Court of Claims. It found that the Tee-Hit-Ton had “original Indian title” or “Indian right of occupancy” when Russian controlled Alaska prior to 1867. (The term “right of occupancy” comes from the Doctrine of Discovery, a 19th Century legal construct which says while American Indians have the right to occupy the land, the government has the title.)

In Tee-Hit-Ton Indians vs. the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court wrote: Continue reading

Upcoming Movies and Gatherings

Upcoming events (full details below the bullets)

  • Saturday, February 6: Documentary showing of Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code, followed by Q&A with Director Sheldon Wolfchild
  • Monday, February 8: Your Living Legacy: A Transformational Framing of the Future, an all-day community gathering hosted by Native Americans in Philanthropy
  • Tuesday, February 9: Bde Maka (Lake Calhoun) Community Conversation.
  • March 1: Making Space to Rise: Native Men and Boys Challenging Sexual Violence, a movie premier and community discussion

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Messiah UMC to Host “Doctrine of Discovery: Understanding Native Historic Trauma” Event; This Day in History: Landmark Supreme Court Case on Tribal Sovereignty

Messiah United Methodist Church (UMC) is hosting a screenings of The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code, with a post-film discussion with co-Producer Sheldon Wolfchild of the Lower Sioux Indian Community. This event is free and open to the public. It is being held in collaboration with Wolfchild and his 38 Plus 2 Productions, Healing Minnesota Stories, and the UMC’s Native American Ministries Action Team.  It is part of the United Methodist Church’s ongoing work towards acts of repentance with Native American peoples.

Please come:

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News Wrap: Pow Wows, National Catholic Reporter ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ Series, Treaty Rights Update

There are two upcoming pow wows on the weekend of Sept. 12-13.

Click on the links for more.

National Catholic Reporter Shines Light on the Doctrine of Discovery and its  ‘Shocking Cruelty’

Cudos to the National Catholic Reporter for launching a six-part series called “The Trail of History,” which puts the spotlight on the harm done to Native Americans by the Catholic Church and Americans in general. In particular, the series focuses on the Doctrine of Discovery, Papal bulls (or edicts) issued back in the 1400s that gave European monarchs the religious and legal justification to take lands from Native peoples and subjugate them.

The Editor’s Note to the series reads:

It may seem like papal statements from 500 years ago are ancient history. But Native American activists and scholars insist that Catholicism’s past continues to affect the present. Papal bulls from the 1400s condoned the conquest of the Americas and other lands inhabited by indigenous people. The papal documents led to an international norm called the Doctrine of Discovery, which dehumanized non-Christians and legitimized their suppression by nations around the world, including by the United States. Now Native Americans say the church helped commit genocide and refuses to come to terms with it.

The first article in the series is headlined: Intergenerational Grief on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation.  It gives the following context for the Papal bulls.

In 1493, one such bull, the pronouncement Inter Caetera, granted Spain “full and free power, authority, and jurisdiction of every kind” over non-Christian people in the new land. It declared that “the Catholic faith and the Christian religion be exalted and be everywhere increased and spread, that the health of souls be cared for and that barbarous nations be overthrown and brought to the faith itself.”

This bull and others like it gave license to the domination of native peoples, arguing that because they were not Christian, they lacked human rights. Instead of being encountered like human beings, native people were said to have been “discovered,” like some new species of animal.

The article goes on to highlight the crushing poverty and despair on the reservation and connects it back to the Doctrine of Discovery.

Deep psychological wounds hammer life in Cheyenne River today. The wounds may appear fresh, but are in fact quite old — originally inflicted at a time when the doctrine and its thinking permeated the effort to deal with America’s “Indian problem.”

The second article, published today (Tuesday), is titled: Boarding Schools: A Black Hole of Native American History. It discusses how boarding schools — an effort “Westernize” and “Christianize” Native American children — were an outgrowth of the Doctrine of Discovery. Many contend the boarding schools were a collusion between church and state, “to stamp out Native American identity, affecting generations of children,” the article said.

To follow subsequent stories in the series, click on: “The Trail of History.”

Treaty Rights Protest Also Targets Mining, Pipeline Expansion

The Twin Cities Daily Planet offers an interesting insight into the Ojibwe treaty rights protest in northern Minnesota. We wrote earlier how protesters both harvested wild rice and fished outside the reservation without a state permit. They were successful in getting citations–exactly what they wanted to pursue a court challenge. The new twist from the Daily Planet story is a quote from Frank Bibeau, an attorney for the protesters, who said: “We were intentionally looking to target a lake along the pipeline corridor,” a reference to the proposed Enbridge oil pipeline.

The article discusses the group’s concern about the impact that current and future mines and pipelines have on lakes and rivers.

“We are not just talking about the pipeline but also about mining–there’s quite a bit of pollution,” says Robert DesJarlait. “There’s a 140-mile stretch of the St. Louis River which are wild rice dead zones because of all the sulfates, and now they want a copper mine. Our wild rice will be affected by the pipeline and the mines,” he said. “… wild rice is a sacred plant to us. It’s a spiritual issue and a cultural issue.” For many, harvesting wild rice doesn’t make a whole lot of money–maybe enough to provide clothing for their kids. “Nobody gets rich off it,” he said.

Check out the article by Sheila Regan. It has some excellent photos, too.









News Wrap: Denali; Treaty Rights; Pope Francis’ U.S. Visit

Mount McKinley Now Officially Renamed Denali

President Obama is visiting Alaska to highlight the alarming signs of climate change that exist in that state, but he started his visit by renaming Mount McKinley “Denali,” CNN reports, “an historic nod to the region’s native population, which the White House says is under threat from the already-present threat of climate change.”

Treaty Rights Protest Presses Forward in Northern Minnesota

Two Ojibwe men got ticketed last week in northern Minnesota for using gillnets to fish, a violation of state law, Minnesota Public Radio reports. It was exactly what the men wanted. This opens the door for a court challenge to argue for broader fishing and gatherting rights the men argue exist under an 1855 treaty.

Earlier, members of the Ojibwe group tried to get the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to cite them for harvesting wild rice on Hole in the Day Lake without a state permit. Trying to avoid the conflict, the DNR issued a special one-day permit for the ricing. The group, however, persisted with more activities to get the citation they wanted.

Ideas for Pope Francis During his U.S. Visit

Activist lawyer Libby Comeaux wrote a thoughtful blog titled: “Five Ways Pope Francis Can Overcome the Irony that Threatens Laudato Si’” Her ideas including delaying or canceling the canonization of Father Junipero Serra, and “renouncing and withdrawing the three 15th century papal bulls implicated in the Doctrine of Discovery.”

Comeaux’s blog argues that the environmental themes the Pope writes about in Laudato Si are in stark contrast to the world view embraced in the papal bulls that created the Doctrine of Discovery:

Indigenous peoples have suffered over 500 years from intentional decimation of persons, communities and lands, accompanied by forced assimilation into a culture that insults and ridicules their most cherished ethical principles. In the process, by operation of these bulls over time, they are not the only ones who suffer. The entire planetary web of life is being devastated by massive extraction and dumping for profit. Laudato Si’ wants to bring forth a new paradigm that will heal this twin tragedy, but the irony is that the old paradigm finds its roots in these very papal bulls. Traditional indigenous scholars and elders have been asking for papal revocation for over 30 years, to no avail. Francis would be wise to get on with it, without delay.

Click on the link above to read more.

Wolfchild to Speak on Doctrine of Discovery at Pond House Sunday

Sheldon Wolfchild, the filmmaker who created the documentary: The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code, will be speaking at the Pond House in Bloomington this Sunday at 2 p.m. He will show excerpts of the documentary and have DVDs for sale. Healing Minnesota Stories has partnered with Wolfchild on several events, showing the film and hosting post-film dialogues. The documentary has been very well received and tells an important part of our history that does not get taught in schools.

The historic Pond House is located in Pond Dakota Mission Park, 401 East 104th St., Bloomington, between Portland and Nicollet avenues. (For more information call Jay Ludwig at 952-484-0477 or visit www.BloomingtonMN.go.)

Wolfchild, president of 38 Plus 2 Productions, also will speak about his great, great, grandfather, Medicine Bottle – his capture, trial, and hanging after the war of 1862. A donation of $2 is suggested; youth through high school and PDHS members are welcome to attend for free.

Wolfchild is planning an official premier of the documentary on Friday, Sept. 4, at 7:30 p.m. at the Parkway Theater, 4814 Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis. Wolfchild co-produced the documentary with Steve Newcom, author of Pagans in the Promised Land.

Doctrine of Discovery Documentary to be Released Sept. 4; This Day in History: The Doty Treaty

“The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code,” the amazing result of a collaboration between filmmaker/Director Sheldon Wolfchild and Co-Producer Steven Newcomb, will be officially released Friday, Sept. 4 and available for purchase.

The Saint Paul Interfaith Network/Healing Minnesota Stories has partnered with Wolfchild to show the film in several Twin Cities venues during the past year, including Hamline University, Grace Lutheran Church/Apple Valley, Church of All Nations in Columbia Heights, Unity Unitarian in St. Paul, and Cherokee Park United in St. Paul. It has been very well received.

The film, based on Steven Newcomb’s book Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Domination Code (Fulcrum, 2008), focuses on the little known Doctrine of Discovery, the justification by which the church purported to give European monarchs a right to claim and assert a right of domination over “discovered” non-Christian lands to the west. The “right of discovery” granted by the church was later adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1823 in the case Johnson & Graham’s Lessee v. M’Intosh. The film discusses how the Doctrine of Discovery  remains the law of the land and its implications today.

The film features interviews with Newcomb and theologian Luis Rivera, author of A Violent Evangelism: The Religious and Political Conquest of the Americas (2008).

A trailer and more details are available on Wolfchild’s website 38 plus 2 Productions where you can pre-order a copy of the DVD.

This Day in History: The Doty Treaty, July 31, 1841

An 1841 treaty negotiated with the Dakota but never ratified by the U.S. Senate nearly created a permanent Indian Territory in what is now Minnesota. According to a summary on the website http://www.usdakotawar.org/timeline,

James Doty, the governor of Wisconsin Territory, fashions a treaty intended to provide a permanent home west of the Mississippi River for the Dakota, the Ho Chunk and other tribes. Tracts of land are to be set aside for each band on the west bank of the Mississippi; each tribe is to have a school, agent, blacksmith, gristmill and sawmill. The initial treaty is negotiated with the Sisseton, Wahpeton and Wahpekute bands; negotiations with the Mdewakanton collapse. The United States does not ratify the treaty.

According to the History of the Santee Sioux: United States Indian Policy on Trial, by Roy Willard Meyer, the Dakota agreed to the first of two treaties on July 31, 1841. The plan to create an Indian territory failed in large part due to opposition from expansionist U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri. “[I]t is evident that Benton’s real reason for opposing the treaty was that it would have locked up a valuable tract of country for the Indians instead of opening it to white settlement,” Meyer wrote.