Subject: CHRISTIAN UNITY GATHERING: Doctrine of Discovery video

The Doctrine of Discovery
Due to our busy schedule at this year's Christian Unity Gathering, we were unable to view an important video that came to us by way of Archbishop Mark MacDonald, originally planned for the program Monday night. Through an arrangement with him we have posted this video on our YouTube channel so you can watch it now.

We hope you will take a few moments (approx. 8 minutes) to view this important video today.

What is the Doctrine of Discovery?

The Doctrine of Discovery, a legal framework that justified European imperial ventures around the world, including the colonization of North America, has its roots in a series of Papal statements dating back to the 15th century. For example, read the Papal Bull Inter caetera of 1493 on the Encyclopedia Virginia website.

Given the passage of time, and the shifting of religious affiliation, you might think that it is an archaic principle, with little bearing in contemporary law and society.

Yet the Doctrine of Discovery, which asserted that lands belonged to the Christian powers that “discovered” them (and the related concept of Terra Nullius, which held that those on the land prior to European arrival merely occupied it without any right or title), continues to reverberate in the 21st century. As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) noted in its final report, the Doctrine of Discovery has been cited in decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada as recently as the 1990s.

Why is it still relevant?

The Doctrine of Discovery has profoundly affected the way that Indigenous peoples have been perceived by non-Indigenous peoples. The TRC’s final report observed that it rested upon the belief that “the colonizers were bringing civilization to savage people who would never civilize themselves” [Canada’s Residential Schools: The History, Part I: Origins to 1939, p. 18]. That perception, in turn, defined our relationship, culminating in the establishment of residential schools and the legacy that continues to play out today.

Consequently, a key recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, articulated in a number of its Calls to Action, is the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery.

From Archbishop MacDonald:

“At the heart of the doctrine is the idea that Indigenous people are a primitive form of human life who are therefore discoverable,” he said. “This hidden assumption causes us to look at indigenous people as people who need to be updated, who need to be westernised or civilised in order to have any sort of happy life.

“It doesn’t look at indigenous people as people of a distinct and worthwhile culture. It doesn’t value their gifts and talents and ideas.”

The bishop said that the doctrine of discovery was at the heart of the mistreatment of indigenous people that is historical and ongoing.

The Most Rev. Mark MacDonald became the Anglican Church of Canada’s first National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop in 2007, after serving as bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Diocese of Alaska for 10 years.

About the National Council of Churches: 

Serving as a leading voice of witness to the living Christ in the public square since 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) brings together 38 member communions and more than 35 million Christians in a common expression of God’s love and promise of unity.

The Christian Unity Gathering is the signature annual event of the National Council of Churches.  Join us!

110 Maryland Ave NE, Suite 108, Washington, DC 20002, United States
You may unsubscribe or change your contact details at any time.