Steven Newcomb: Native nations go from 'savage' to 'civilized'

A ship sails in a scene from The Doctrine of Discovery Unmasking: The Domination Code, a documentary co-produced by Steven Newcomb. Still image from YouTube

Steven Newcomb of the Indigenous Law Institute looks at the influence of religion on the treatment of the original nations of Turtle Island:
In 1892, Burke Aaron Hinsdale delivered a commemoration address at the University of Michigan, entitled “The Discovery of America.” The occasion was the 400th year since Columbus’s first historic voyage from Spain to the Caribbean. At the end of his essay, Hinsdale said that Columbus “led the way across the Sea of Darkness.” “He opened the portals of the Western Hemisphere, not to Castile and Leon only, but to humanity." Buried in this phrasing is the view that Columbus was the first one to bring “humanity” to this hemisphere.

Hinsdale’s claim that Columbus “opened” this hemisphere “to humanity” brings into sharp focus the way in which the mentality of European and Euro-American scholars has typically categorized our nations and peoples as originally existing “without humanity.” The word “without” has two meanings, “lacking humanity,” and existing “outside” the boundaries of humanity.

The claim that Christian Europeans “discovered” for “humanity” the lands and territories of our original nations and peoples, carries a powerful and damning implication: Our nations and peoples have been treated as not being part of “humanity” at the time that Columbus and other voyagers created the first “human” awareness of the existence of our part of the planet. From the viewpoint of Christian Europe, our nations and peoples would not be integrated into “human” and “Christian” civilization until our ancestors had been forcibly reduced downward from our free and independent existence, and subjected (thrown under) the Christian empire, or the world of Christendom.

Get the Story:
Steven Newcomb: On Free and Independent Nations Becoming 'Human' and 'Civilized' (Indian Country Today 9/20)

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