Summit: Doctrine of Discovery was 'political fiction'
Posted: August 14, 2006
by: Brenda Norrell / Indian Country Today
PHOENIX - Indigenous in the Americas are demanding that the ''doctrines of discovery,'' the papal bulls that led to the seizure of American Indian homelands, be rescinded.
At the Summit of Indigenous Nations on Bear Butte in South Dakota, delegations of indigenous nations and nongovernmental organizations passed a strongly worded resolution condemning the historical use of the doctrine of discovery as an instrument of genocide.
Tupac Enrique Acosta, coordinator at Tonatierra in Phoenix, said the effort at Bear Butte continues the indigenous battle to halt genocide of indigenous peoples and seizures of their homelands in the Americas.
Tonatierra was among the organizations at the Summit of Indigenous Nations taking action to rescind the doctrines of discovery: Papal Bull Inter Caetera of 1493 and the 1496 Royal Charter of the Church of England.
''The Indigenous Nations have resolved, here at the base of Mato Paha [Bear Butte], that the Pope of the Catholic Church and the Queen of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury rescind these doctrines of discovery for having served to justify and pave the way for the illegal dispossession of aboriginal land title and the subjugation of non-Christian peoples to the present day,'' according to the summit's statement.
Forty delegations of indigenous spiritual and political leaders, as well as NGOs, signed the resolution.
''These papal bulls have been the basis for the extinguishment of aboriginal land title and the subjugation of indigenous peoples of Abya Yala [North and South America]. The implementation of the papal bulls evolved in the United States through the Supreme Court decision of Johnson v. M'Intosh  which established the precedent for the denial of aboriginal title to American Indian lands in the United States,'' according to the summit.
''It has been resolved by 23 Nations and NGO's and 100 individual signatories that the 'Doctrine of Discovery' is a legal and political fiction in violation of the rights of indigenous peoples and intellectual act of oppression which continues to serve to suppress and repress the indigenous peoples in the Western Hemisphere.''
From Ecuador at the Bear Butte gathering was Santiago Delacruz, vice president of CONAIE (Confederacion de Nacionalidades Indigenas del Ecuador/Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador). CONAIE is a formation of 28 indigenous nationalities and Pueblos of Ecuador.
''We have come from the southern part of this continent Abya Yala which we share with you all as indigenous nations of this hemisphere on a mission to strengthen and re-establish our ancestral ties as a continental confederation of nations and pueblos,'' he said.
Delacruz offered support for rescinding the papal bulls and support from the south for the protection of Bear Butte.
''It is with great concern that we have come to be informed of the threatened desecration of the Sacred Mato Paha, also known as Bear Butte, where we now gathered in summit as indigenous nations.
''This sacred area must not be allowed to be destroyed or desecrated by the proposed construction projects of 'biker bars' and the like,'' Delacruz said.
Enrique pointed out that the current demand that the papal bulls be eliminated represents a longtime global effort.
In May, at the United Nations in New York, the Continental Proclamation Abya Yala was presented at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The proclamation was ratified at the Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples in Quito, Ecuador, in 2004, and in Mar de Plata, Argentina, in 2005.
The proclamation stated, ''That the Papal Bull Inter Caetera of Pope Alexander VI is hereby annulled, as well as whatever Doctrine of Discovery proceeding from which that pretends to deform the relationship of Harmony, Justice, and Peace of we the Indigenous Peoples of Humanity in its entirety.''
And earlier, at the United Nations in Geneva on Aug. 1, 1991, indigenous delegates discussing the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, convened by the Working Group on Indigenous People, also issued a statement to then-Pope John Paul II, chief of the Vatican.
The 1991 declaration stated, ''We demand from the Vatican state a denunciation of the unilateral treaty of Pope Alexander VI (Tordesillas) as being contrary to the Universal Human Rights of Peoples.
''Whereas the year 1993 completes 500 years of a supposed spiritual conquest without clear rectification of this universal injustice, allowing the nation-states that have benefited from the inheritance of Pope Alejandro VI to continue programmes of genocide and ethnocide, denying the indigenous people the recuperation of a harmony based on reciprocal human respect, we demand that the Papal Bull of May 3, 4, 1493 Inter Cetera be annulled.''
In Bear Butte in August, signatories on the declaration to rescind the papal bulls included a cross-section of indigenous and non-indigenous organizations and nations, including the Western Shoshone Defense Project, American Indian Law Alliance, American Indian Movement, Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council by Chief Oliver Red Cloud and Oglala Delegate Floyd Hand, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, Bring Back the Way: Owe Aku and Tonatierra.
The Summit of Indigenous Nations was called in response to the development of several new biker venues located within five miles of the base of Bear Butte, near the Black Hills Mountains.
''Bear Butte is a sacred place of worship for over 30 Native American Nations across the Great Plains. The Native American Nations involved are asking for a minimum five-acre buffer zone of protection from commercial development around the sacred mountain,'' according to the summit.