Christian ‘Doctrine’ Fueled Dehumanization: UNPFII Report

Christian ‘Doctrine’ Fueled Dehumanization: UNPFII Report

Valerie Taliman

NEW YORK – A groundbreaking report examining the roots of Christian domination over indigenous peoples and their lands was released this week at the united nations Permanent Forum on indigenous issues.

North American Representative to the Permanent Forum Tonya Gonnella Frichner, an attorney and founder of the American Indian Law Alliance, presented a preliminary study on the “Doctrine of Discovery” and its historical impacts on indigenous peoples, with a focus on how

It became part of United States laws. “The first thing indigenous peoples share is the experience of having been invaded by those who treated us without compassion because they considered us to be less than human,” said Frichner, a citizen of the Onondaga Nation serving her first term on the 16-member UNPFII. “Dehumanization leads to the second thing indigenous peoples share in common: Being treated on the basis of the belief that those who invaded our territories have a right of lordship or dominance over our existence and, therefore, have the right to take, grant, and dispose of our lands, territories, and resources without our permission or consent.” Frichner said human rights violations faced by indigenous peoples can all be traced to the Doctrine of Discovery and its interpretive framework which has been used for five centuries to take native lands.

It has also been cited in U.S. Supreme Court land claims cases decided against Indian nations, including the 1955 ruling Tee Hit Ton Indians v. United States, and the 2005 decision in City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York.

The Doctrine of Discovery was among Vatican mandates dating back to the 15th century, called papal bulls, that declared Christian monarchs had the right to claim superior title over land and territories that they “discovered.”

The claimed right of “dominion” over native peoples was based on the thinking that non-Christians were “heathens and uncivilized savages,” with no, or limited rights, to land.

The Vatican’s Doctrine of Discovery was based on the premise that all non-Christian land belonged to no one because no Christians were living there and no Christian monarch or lord had yet claimed dominion. Once Christian monarchies like Spain or France claimed the right of dominion, that claim was transferred to political successors over centuries.

“Indian land rights have been characterized in U.S. law as nothing more than a permissive right of occupancy or permission from the whites to occupy their own Indian lands,” Frichner said.

There were theologians who did not agree that Christian discovery could give dominion over and title to non-Christian lands. The issue was debated at length in the early 1550s in Spain with no input from indigenous peoples, she said.

It was a debate among Christian Europeans about whether the Indians of the Americas were human.

“Clearly, (we) have joined the debate by declaring definitively that we are human beings. However, for more than five centuries, the doctrines of discovery and dehumanization have been institutionalized, and this is the context of the work we are doing on the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” Frichner said.

The study focused on the history of the United States, and points out that the Doctrine of Discovery had been officially incorporated into U.S. Indian policies in the 1823 Supreme Court ruling Johnson v. M’Intosh.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall identified the royal charters of Great Britain pertaining to North America as the source of the argument that “discovery gave title” to the government by whose authority the “discovery” was made.

The royal charter issued to John Cabot in 1496 authorized Cabot and his sons to seek out “isles, countries, and regions of the heathen and infidel, which before this time have been unknown to all Christian people.”

This and similar language were cited as the basis for the ruling in Johnson v. M’Intosh that the United States had the ultimate dominion over Indian peoples and lands.

Frichner said the report is a first step in investigating the global scope of the Doctrine of Discovery as a key source of violations of human rights of Native peoples.

A comprehensive study will provide the opportunity to understand that all the struggles that indigenous peoples are engaged in are rooted in “the claim by one people of a right of dominance over another.”

Frichner said the discriminatory legal framework that exists today is directly tied to the Doctrine of Discovery which has resulted in the dispossession and impoverishment of indigenous peoples and unlimited resource extraction from their lands.

Kuriakose Bharanikulangara, observer for the Holy See, responded to Frichner’s report by saying that the papal bulls that paved the way for European expansion had been abrogated over centuries. He insisted the Church had upheld the rights of indigenous peoples to their ancestral lands, regardless of whether the inhabitants were Christian or not.

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fiorella21's picture
Submitted by fiorella21 on
As mentioned in the last paragraph of the article, the comment by Kuriakose Bharanikulangara, observer for the Holy See, is, in fact, correct. The various papal bulls which "paved" the way for the oppression, dispossession, and impoverishment of indigenous people (in 1455 "Romanus Pontifex" by Pope Nicholas V, in 1456 "Inter Cetera" by Pope Calixtus III which confirmed it, and in 1493 "Inter Cetera" by Pope Alexander VI which divided the New World between Spain and Portugal) were all rescinded in 1537, with the papal bull "Sublime Dei" by Pope Paul III. It’s interesting to note the time frame of the original oppressive papal bulls : 1455 and 1456, i.e. nearly 40 years before the discovery of the New World. To whom were those directed? Obviously not specifically to the Americas‘ indigenous people, but rather to any and all non-Christian lands discovered during that time. A sad state of affairs, admittedly, especially since Christians should have remembered quite well what it was like to be persecuted, and not wish the same fate to be brought upon others. Unfortunately, in that era, fear and greed were rampant, as was ignorance and illiteracy. The original message of Christ, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” which is still a challenge today, was mostly silenced, except in Saints, during the Middle Ages. The use of the papal bulls as a mandate to steal from the indigenous people was done out of convenience and greed, however, not out of love or obedience to the Papal office. Evidence this fact by noticing how the papal bull "Sublime Dei" written in 1537 by Pope Paul III which actually forbids the enslavement of the indigenous people of the Americas, was not heeded, nor is it remembered, as quickly as the other three. Why? …. Could it be that it was not as convenient to enact it? (for a list of papal bulls, ck out wikipedia… very interesting)

husbandofmoonlight's picture
Submitted by husbandofmoonlight on
Even a short study of 'world (or is that whurled) history' will reveal that ALL religions believe the "right of domination' in most cases even AFTER conversion of the groups they were 'discovering'. The entire nature of any religion is domination of the believers----and their domination of others---most often the "non-believers" We have made a point in our organization, "NAIM" to first and foremost debunk the 'theory' of ANY religion by asking a few questions directed at the 'logic' of ANY "God" (or Goddess for that matter) since ALL religions are based entirely upon fiction; and the fictional accounts of the "deity (s)as 'contained in the texts' which are ALWAYS written by human beings----never by the "deity" they describe. So this is a "subliminal message" ---"Jehova (Big Daddy God) can create the entire universe in just six days-------"he" can create the "Grand Canyon---without a bulldozer" and STILL WAS NOT "Able" to write his own book---"he" needed jealous,vindictive,weak human beings to "write his book ---through devine inspiration"--"FOR" "him". This makes no sense at all. In addition to that absurdity; he chose ONE group of "people" to be his 'stenographers'---the "Jews" ----wow; that IS "arrogance"----. The even more ridiculous concept of a "God" that would choose one group of human beings over another as in Deut. 14:2 (KJRE)---is that "Jehova decided" LATER to "conceive" a 'Son' (a daughter would have been better---but this is a "God" that created a "Satan" so how SMART is THAT. hahahahahaha) "emaculately" then gave that 'son' the power to forgive the "unchosen ones" for NOT being "jewish"; which by the way is a CHOICE---as proscribed by the Batmitzva/Barmitzva which is an intitiation ceremony. PLEASE this is a "really screwed up concept here folks"-----not to mention the 'concept of a God' ----which according to religious history has always been attributed to POWER over others--whether they are believers--or non-believers. The "Christians" never met a culture they did not 'destroy'; then often brag about it as a "defeat of the Satan"---that their "God" "created" --- a version of the 'trickster Gods' of many other belief systems----read them yourselves in books such as Joe Campbells ; "The Hero With a Thousand Faces" if nothing a liberating experience for those enlsaved by "belief" in 'fiction'. Accordingly we believe that the ONLY way to separate the reality with the fiction of a "God" is simple. Stop giving "God" ---- "money"-----then see how quickly "nothing" happens---stop paying homage to a fantasy----rely on science and facts. All of the conflicts throught out history have been intiated by one group over another based on the 'offending groups' belief in supperiority, most often through their belief in a "deity" --and always a mean jealous vindictive insecure deity-------. The Christians were very arrogant to record all of their attrocities they inflicted upon so many others in the name of their "Jesus"---then even more arrogant to deny them, later. But then "if you are going to be the only ones in heaven; you can do anything you want to here on earth----right? I quote often one of my "full blood relatives" who had been born during the last decade of the 19th century---served in WWI as a US Marine in order to gain his "citizenship" (he was removed from the rolls after his service; and never went back on them) he had "earned" his "freedom to walk around in the whiteman's world". As a child had been subject to the Christian Missionary's cruel treatment of separating Native Children from families that would not cooperate with the dominating "armed forces" ;ironically after those forces had actually not won the war they started with the tribes. He was a wonderful human being and one of the finest horsemen I have ever known aside from being my favorite--UNCLE--I assumed his name; he left me with MANY very liberating beliefs. He "joined our ancestors" long ago; but I still love him--maybe more today, than even then. He would often say this to those who were "trying to save his soul" while they 'brought the story of Jesus' to him: He would raise his hand and say "well, you know I went to missionary school after being taken away from my folks while I was still young". They didn't teach me much that I could use out here in the world; except how to be mean and ugly to my fellow humans and all other life forms; I did not want to be that way; and when I was a young man I realized that I was wasting my time with a GOD so I stopped believing." Then he would pause; and then continue with--"I know! YOU believe I will be held to judgement some day; and IF that is the case, I'll wait patiently for my name to be called and then I'll rush the podium and slap that GOD around like a rag doll for letting all the terrible things that have happened to so many human beings and animals in HIS name; then I'll stand back and take a short break and THEN make Jesus and all those Angels wipe up the blood with their white robes and wings for participating." I never heard him say that to any 'believer' and have the 'believer' remain within reach of him; they usually smiled and backed away. It is PURE Native American "logic"---and it works. I feel the same way he did. I quote him now in honor (hey Uncle) As a 'proactive Atheist" I enjoy being free of some "God" that would allow so much misery and pain to be inflicted in "HIS name" and not stop it---before it even happened. Read some history and you can't disagree with the facts that "religons"; ALL of them; have blood and pain and misery of those they encounter ALL OVER THEIR HANDS----NONE of them deserve the consideration of anyone who is intelligent enough to read even some of their history; and THEN not ask "WHY"? As for "all my relations"; we stand in disunity and we are prisoners of war in our own lands. We will be 'truly' free when we stand in unity and solidarity; and not until then. If nothing, these "Anglo/European--Judean/Christian invaders will have taught us "what NOT to do"---and hey; "if ya know what NOT to do, you've got half of the problem solved". The only way to relieve ourselves of the oppression inficted by "religions"---is to ridicule them and "stop giving them money"---hey; if they are the "chosen ones directly or by proxy: "God" can send them some money---"right"?. "The willing cooperation of the oppressed; is all the oppressor needs to succeed." Ghandi (a "real Indian") Good Luck all of you "believers"----it appears that your days are 'coming to an end time'-----and when your "God" does not appear; you will be left holding the mess you have made of your entire planet while you believed such foolish arrogance. "If the USA were any other criminal nation the 'Americans' would invade the USA to keep the world safe; and they would be justified." Husband of Moonlight Comanche/Kiowa/Choctaw (mississippi) and Scottish of Clan McGregor thank you PS --I do my best to audit my postings for grammer and spelling but my equipment does not allow for "spell check" with this program; and like many by-lingual people; "I'm a turrable spelerer"....... (and----for those seeking perfection in an imperfect world----good luck)