Peter d'Errico: UN forum looks at the doctrine of discovery

"Michael Anderson is leader of the Euahlayi People, a 3,000 strong Aboriginal Nation and convener of the New Way Sovereignty Summit on the status and place of Aboriginal peoples in contemporary Australia and beyond.

In a statement released after this year’s Summit, Anderson issued a warning about the May 16 side event to the 10th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), on the ‘doctrine of discovery’: “we must be assured that this is not another move by the United Nations and their member states to formulate a strategy to interfere with Aboriginal moves to have this matter truly investigated by legal enquiry.”

The target of Anderson’s concern is the 500-year-old claim that Christian empires had a divine right to appropriate whatever lands they ‘discovered,’ no matter that the lands were in the possession of Indigenous nations and peoples. Invader governments used the doctrine, promulgated by 15th century popes, to justify land claims in areas now known as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and elsewhere in the world.

The UNPFII decision to focus on this issue is a major development, based on decades of inquiry in and out of the U.N. Vine Deloria, Jr., (Standing Rock Dakota) wrote about the doctrine in the late 1960s. In the late 1980s, Tupac Enrique Acosta sent a letter to the Vatican challenging the doctrine. In 1992, Steven Newcomb (Shawnee/Lenape) and Birgil Kills Straight (Oglala Lakota), of the Indigenous Law Institute (ILI), called for revocation of the “Inter Caetera” papal bull that embodied and advanced the doctrine."

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Peter d'Errico: Aboriginal Leader Calls for Vigilance as U.N. Looks at ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ (Indian Country Today 5/24)

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