Thinking about The Doctrine of Discovery

In 2016, the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) called the church to confess its complicity and participation in advancing the Doctrine of Discovery. This Doctrine provided spiritual justification for colonial settlements and land “rushes” which ultimately allowed for the displacement and even the extermination of the original inhabitants of the lands which would become the United States of America from its original inhabitants.

Our General Assembly has called upon the people of the PCUSA to learn about this frequently ignored part of American history, to partner and be in dialogue with Native Americans. It also called for the writing of a report on the Doctrine of Discovery by the Native American Presbyterian leadership of the denomination which includes the history of the Doctrine and recommendations for congregations and the PCUSA.

Remembering that we can’t go back in time to undo what our ancestors did, we can take time to consider what we could do to support changes called for by our indigenous siblings. Today, on Indigenous People’s Day, we could start by taking a moment to read the PCUSA report and then giving some thought to what we might be able to do to help right this long history of injustice.

[Photo: replica of the Papal Bull “Inter Caetera” issued in 1493 by Pope Alexander VI to justify Christian European explorers’ claims on land and waterways they allegedly discovered, and promote Christian domination and superiority.]

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