Manataka American Indian Council









Repudiation of Doctrine

 of Discovery

By Linda Two Hawk Feathers James



Hi, my name is Linda Two Hawk Feathers James.  I have been a member of Manataka since 2002 and am new to the Elder Council.  It is a privilege and honor to be an Elder.  I am of Choctaw heritage. I love helping people and learning about native ways.  In December 2009 I will complete a Master of Divinity degree and presently work as a Chaplain for a hospice organization in Western Illinois.  The greatest passion of my life is working for peace and justice especially between the two most important parts of my heritage – native culture/ ceremony and being a follower of Jesus.  If I can come to terms of these two dwelling in me, then I also have hope for a great co-dwelling in our nation.  In the spirit of Creator and in the spirit of my great hope, I write this article which may become a series about spiritual healing.


At The Heart of Native America


In 1492, the life of native people in the “Americas” changed forever.  The Age of Discovery officially began with the landing of Europeans on another continent.   The explorers travelled with great hopes of finding riches for their sovereign and receiving fame for themselves.  There were those with a different agenda – growing the Church.  Over the hundreds of years of the Church, it had been merged, reconfigured and colonized by a human inclination to own, manipulate and control others.  Out of this came a twisted form of Creator’s plan for the five-fingered race to live in community.  Instead, some became very rich and powerful while most became poor and controlled.  So, a new “manifest destiny” was imagined in the royalty controlled Church of 15th Century Europe.  Many imagined themselves as the new Israel and the new land as the new Promised Land.


Explorers returned home with tales of “naked, god-less savages” who needed to learn how to be human (they meant; to learn to be European).  In the next year, the leader of the “worldwide church” issued the Inter Caetera Papal Bull by Pope Alexander VI in 1493 that was later expanded and interpreted as the "Doctrine of Discovery" that gave explorer forces freedom to conquer and confiscate any and all land/people and riches in the unexplored continent.


Over the last 500+ years since this colonizing of these lands, there have been people of conscience and faith who protested the mistreatment, genocide and relocating of indigenous people.  They may have been the majority, but definitely did not have the power to change the system.


So, what is the purpose for this story?  It turns out that a group of people have put their heads together, considered the church’s role in all of this, and decided to take a stand.  They are trying to call the Church to account for it’s misdeeds by asking for that document the Doctrine of Discovery be repudiated.  This may not bring a change, but it may be a start.


In July 2009, Episcopal Church of America approved a resolution titled, "Repudiation of Doctrine of Discovery."  Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg, an International Correspondent for the Episcopal Life Online website in her story, "General Convention renounces Doctrine of Discovery - Repudiation of centuries-old theory has modern implications..." writes: 


"Some of the doctrine's early roots are traced to 1455 when Pope Nicholas V, by way of his order "Romanus Pontifex," gave Portugal's King Alfonso V permission to "invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery."


"While the principle might seem irrelevant today, the resolution's advocates say its impact echoes through current governmental policy and human behavior.  John Chaffee, resolution sponsor and a history professor at the State University of New York at Binghamton, said in an interview that "history continues to be relevant in terms of justice issues today."


"One of the things that the church needs to do is stand up for issues of justice and I think this is a very clear case of that," said Chaffee, lay deputy from the Diocese of Central New York. The Doctrine of Discovery, he said, "really has had a profound role in the subjugating of native peoples, particularly in the legal sense. He suggested that the resolution would in part help Episcopalians understand the "historical underpinnings of our relationship to native Americans."


I suggest readers of the Smoke Signal News and all members and supporters of Manataka read the articles below.  Then, I ask you to write an email to leadership of the Episcopal Church of America expressing your personal thanks for this effort on their part to heal the great wound from which indigenous people still stuffer.  I believe this can be an opportunity to be partners in Creator’s design for community helping community.  Prophets are saying that there must come such a time as this in order to prevent even more destruction of our “race.”


Revoking the Papal Bull of 1493

Doctrine of Discovery

Miller: Will others follow Episcopal Church’s lead? Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery 

Examining the reputation of Christopher Columbus


The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Rev. Canon C. K. Robertson, Ph.D., Canon to the Presiding Bishop and Primate
Mathew Davies, Editor, Episcopal Life Online

Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg, National Correspondent, Episcopal Life Online,




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