Opinion: Join 'Long March to Rome' to support indigenous rights

St. Peter's Square in Vatican City. Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

Attorney David MacKinnon and professor Sandra J.T.M. Evers share the goals of The Long March to Rome in 2016 to call for the formal repeal of the Doctrine of Christian Discovery:
To characterize the Vatican during the Age of Discovery as a well-meaning Christian mission doesn’t fully reflect the reality of a body of well-seasoned practitioners of the art of the deal, and still less the inclinations of the supreme Pontiff himself. Although there’s mention of bringing “barbarous” nations to the faith, the underlying intent of Inter Caetera, and particularly the two Papal Bulls that preceded, Romanus Pontifex (1455) and Dum Diversas (1452) was to legitimize the Portuguese monarchy’s engagement in the slave trade in North Africa and thereafter to justify land claims in the New World by other Christian monarchs.

The moral/legal pretext invoked by the Vatican to ratify the Spanish crown’s project to discover and seize lands in the Americas invites a comparison with certain modern-day corporate and para-public entities that justify large-scale land and resource acquisition in Africa on the basis of higher causes such as sustainable development, food security or even wildlife conservation. This technique is certainly worthy of further investigation.

An increasing number of writers on the issue of indigenous land title, principally Steven Newcomb, have been arguing for years that the basis for the notion that the US government has title to lands in America is grounded in these Papal Bulls. As Newcomb, Peter d’Errico and Robert Miller have repeatedly pointed out, the leading US case in the field, Johnson v. M’Intosh, implicitly acknowledges the connection between the Papal Bulls of Discovery and the government claim to superior title. The issue is gaining traction worldwide. The Long March to Rome, a march of indigenous peoples worldwide on the Vatican to formally seek revocation of the Papal Bulls of Discovery, is scheduled for May 2016. Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples alike can benefit from learning how the 15th century Vatican manufactured a system of inequality to legitimize first the slave trade and thereafter the assertion of sovereignty over the New World, with little regard for the impact of such a policy upon indigenous peoples worldwide.

Get the Story:
David MacKinnon & Sandra J.T.M. Evers: Was the 'Discovery' of America a 'Holy and Praiseworthy' Christian Mission? (Indian Country Today 5/3)

Also Today:
Pope Francis praises Junipero Serra as U.S. 'founding father' (The Los Angeles Times 5/2)
Native Americans protest Father Junipero Serra's soon-to-be sainthood (KABC 5/2)

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