Peter d'Errico: Navajo Nation tackles the Doctrine of Discovery

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell display the signed commemorative memorandum accepting the $554 million trust settlement agreement. September 26, 2014. Photo from Facebook

Peter d'Errico praises Attorney General Harrison Tsosie of the Navajo Nation for taking on the Doctrine of Christian Discovery:
As Attorney General Tsosie stated to Indian Country Today Media Network, the Navajo case "was precipitated by the 1823 Supreme Court ruling in Johnson vs. M’Intosh, which defined the Doctrine of Discovery or the loss of tribes’ 'absolute title to land.'"

Mr. Tsosie's remarks put the Navajo Nation at the forefront of a growing array of critics of the doctrine of "Christian Discovery" and the concomitant "trust doctrine," claimed by the United States as the legal basis of its control over Indian lands and resources. Following the 1823 Johnson ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court elaborated "Christian Discovery" in subsequent cases to hold that the U.S. is the "guardian" of Indian "wards."
Indianz.Com SoundCloud: Navajo Nation Trust Fund Settlement Ceremony
Mr. Tsosie continued, "Many of us don’t understand that these are the legal principles we live with today.... This settlement is not an end to a problem. It’s a recognition and a beginning of a dialogue about that problem. This is a beginning, not an end. There are many Indian tribes in the United States that are in the same predicament we were—having to sue the federal government."

Surprisingly—for a country supposedly founded on the separation of church and state—the Johnson ruling was based on religious decrees from the 15th century. One of these decrees, the Papal Bull Inter Caetera, issued May 3, 1493, states the basic principle the Johnson decision followed: "Our beloved son Christopher Columbus…discovered certain very remote islands and even mainlands…. We…by the authority of Almighty God…do…give, grant, and assign to you and your heirs and successors, kings of Castile and Leon, forever…all islands and mainlands…discovered and to be discovered…with this proviso however that none…be in the actual possession of any Christian king or prince…."

YouTube: Navajo Nation $554 Million Trust Settlement Agreement Signing Ceremony

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Peter d'Errico: Navajo Attorney General Tsosie Tackles 'Christian Discovery' (Indian Country Today 10/15)

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