Columbus Day, celebrated on October 12 or the second Monday of October, became a federal holiday in 1937. It commemorates the landing of Christopher Columbus in the Americas in 1492. For an increasing number of Americans, it is a day to learn more about the Doctrine of Discovery.
The Doctrine of Discovery first appeared in 1455 as a papal bull giving Portugal permission to invade and colonize West Africa. After Columbus’ voyage to the Caribbean, a similar papal bull was extended to Spain in 1493. That 15th-century doctrine is the basis of U.S. federal Indian policy. The Doctrine of Discovery has been cited in Supreme Court Cases as recently as 2005 and by 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2014. The international Indigenous community has been calling for the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery for decades, but many Americans don’t know what it is. Simply put, the Doctrine of Christian Discovery asserted that Christian Nations became the rightful owner of any land they found occupied by non-Christian people. It stripped indigenous people of any rights to land they had occupied for centuries.
In 2009, the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church passed resolution D035, which repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery and made a public commitment to all Indigenous Peoples to review policies and programs, “with a view of exposing the historical reality and impact of the Doctrine of Discovery, and responding to its presence in the church’s contemporary policies, programs, and structures. It calls upon all Episcopalians to seek a greater understanding of Indigenous Peoples and support those Peoples in their ongoing efforts for their inherent fundamental human rights, treaty rights and inherent sovereignty.
“’Exposing the Doctrine of Discovery: A Call To Healing and Hope’ is a congregational resource created to assist the people of the Episcopal Church in responding to General Conventio. The doctrine is a painful example of where the church has been in error, andamiss, and how these errors contribute to contemporary social, and economic issues. The repudiation of the doctrine has given the church direction, and she is now seeking reform in response to colonialism and its aftermath; actions which fundamentally oppose the Gospel of Jesus Christ and our understanding of the inherent right to respect the dignity of every human being.”
It offers congregations a five-part series for prayerful learning, reflection, worship andaction and many other resources for learning and action. It is free for downloading at the link above.