The first Christian people to locate lands inhabited by non-Christians (‘infidels, heathens, and savages’) claimed the right to assert a right of domination to be in themselves. On the basis of this religiously premised argument, the U.S. Supreme Court has defined the land title of the Indian nations as a ‘mere right of occupancy’ subject to a right of domination on the part of the United States.
Replacing the Doctrine of Christian Discovery and Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People
Films on the Doctrine of Discovery
Papal Bulls of the 15th century gave Christian explorers the right to claim lands they ‘discovered’ and lay claim to those lands for their Christian Monarchs. Any land that was not inhabited by Christians was available to be ‘discovered’, claimed, and exploited. If the ‘pagan’ inhabitants could be converted, they might be spared. If not, they could be enslaved or killed.
With the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the General Assembly of the United Nations, we finally took our place at the table of humanity in 2007.
The purpose of this paper is to review the history of the use of the Doctrine of Christian Discovery in United States Supreme Court decisions since 1823. It is hopes that the historical perspective in this paper will be of assistance to readers and help them gain a better understanding as to how fundamental the Doctrine of Discovery is to all United State Indian law, particularly with regards to land rights
Online Resources about the Doctrine of Discovery