Vatican repudiates Doctrine of Discovery used to justify colonization

03/30/2023 4:38 pm


On March 30, the day we honor the life of Sister Thea Bowman, two important news items were shared.

First, welcomed news was released that the Vatican formally repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery used to justify colonization. “...the new Vatican statement makes clear that the principle is not a Catholic doctrine and the 15th century papal bulls were no longer official Catholic teaching.” According to The Jesuit Post, "The Doctrine of Discovery is the leveraging of the idea of discovery to argue for and put into law a claim on and right to indigenous lands." Indian Country Today posted the AP news story to its website, find it here:

The second news item, Global Catholic Sisters Report’s “Inside the effort to identify Catholic-run boarding schools for Indigenous children,” mentions St. Mary’s Indian Boarding School, which FSPA ran from 1883 to 1969 in Odanah, Wisconsin. It calls attention to our complicity in unjust systems, both historically and now. Read that article here,

Now, the work continues. We share the following suggestions from Paula Palmer of Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples, a program of Friends Peace Teams:

Opportunities to continue learning from Indigenous peoples:
Webinar Recording: Unraveling the International Law of Colonialism: The 200th Anniversary of Johnson v M'Intosh--March 10 2023. Watch this recording of a webinar sponsored by the Indian Law Program at Arizona State University.  Indigenous experts from around the world talk about how the Doctrine of Discovery continues to undermine Indigenous peoples’ rights and harm their communities.

Upcoming Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples Programs:
"Roots of Injustice, Seeds of Change: Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples" is a 2-hour participatory workshop, appropriate for high school students and adults. The history of the colonization of Turtle Island, the land that is now known as the United States, will be told through the words of Indigenous leaders, European/American leaders, and Western historians. We will engage with this history through experiential exercises and small group discussions. And we'll be invited to consider how we can build relationships with Indigenous peoples based on truth, respect, justice, and our shared humanity. Register for the April 15th online workshop (2-4 pm Mountain time):

Take action:
Support legislation to establish a Truth and Healing Commission on the Indigenous Boarding Schools. Read this update and connect with your local officials. In Wisconsin, FSPA has reiterated its support with U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin.

Repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery is a move Indigenous people have long urged; let it deepen our commitment to truth and healing. And, let us hear the call of The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition to accountability.

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