The landmark documentary “The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code” recounts a little known story of historical truth, spirituality, and resistance, told on behalf of the original nations and peoples of this continent, this hemisphere, and elsewhere on Earth. Based on an 1823 ruling by United States Supreme Court Justice John Marshall, the Doctrine of Discovery established the premise that ownership of land is based on who discovered the land. European countries observed this rule when they took land from native peoples to make settlements in the New World. According to the rule, the United States was the true owner of the land it claimed because it inherited that ownership from Britain, the original discoverer. Promulgated by European monarchies to legitimize colonizing lands outside Europe, from the 15th century on the principle allowed “Christian people” to seize lands inhabited by indigenous peoples, or “heathens.” The 1823 ruling is still treated by the U.S. Supreme Court as valid law.
In 2009, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church voted to repudiate the Doctrine. That decision became quite real in the Church’s support of the Standing Rock Sioux during their protest of the Dakota pipeline. As Rev. Brandon Mauai, a native person and Episcopal Deacon on the reservation, said: “We were able to stand amongst them as a Church and to tell them we, the Episcopal Church and many other denominations, have repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery.”
Following screening here at St. Andrew’s of the movie AWAKE about the Dakota Access Pipeline, a consortium of several Earth Ministry congregations including St. Andrew’s and our Creation Keepers will again collaborate on this August movie night and invite you to join with the 60 people who came to our inaugural showing in June. Jennifer Fuentes and Roxanne White, both Native Americans who live in Seattle and spend significant time at Standing Rock, will be present once again to help guide us in understanding how the Doctrine of Discovery has impacted both indigenous people and the Creation that God has entrusted to us.