A “Blueprint for Discovery” – how the Papal Bulls of Discovery shackled the New World
“No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.”
Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution
I – The Alchemy of Discovery
Despite its public, historical commitment to the cause of freedom, America remains largely unable to reach an understanding between its indigenous and non-indigenous citizens. On the one hand, it holds itself out to the world as a defender of democracy. On the other hand, the Republic is saddled with a legacy of having deprived the indigenous population of its right to the land, language, and beliefs it has cherished since time immemorial. The legal and moral underpinnings for this impasse is sometimes referred to as the “Doctrine of Discovery” and a fact little known – because it has been airbrushed from the history books and the case law – is that the Doctrine of Discovery depends upon an invented theological construct claiming that heathen peoples were an inferior sub-species of humans, homo animales, by virtue of their lack of the redeeming grace of baptism. This characterization of heathen as inferior – first devised in the heart of the Vatican by two fifteenth century Popes – in turn became a “blueprint for discovery”, legitimizing the spoliation, enslavement and disenfranchisement of indigenous peoples throughout the New World during the Age of Discovery.
Many will argue – that was five hundred years ago. Aye, but there’s the rub, for the legacy of this manufactured inequality endures. The impacts of this structural and existential segregation can be detected to this day –disenfranchisement, the legacy of slavery, the Trail of Tears, the failure to respect treaties, the Indian Residential Schools abuse, the disproportionate sterilisation of indigenous women, the desecration of lands, the cultural genocide and the ongoing tragedy of missing Aboriginal women in Canada.
The world has much to gain from an increased understanding of how this systemic inequality was manufactured, and how it has evolved into a transferable technique. Two dramatic examples exist in our contemporary world of just how this persists – the justification for large-scale land grabs in Africa wiping out livelihoods not considered “sustainable”, and the mish-mash theological explanations offered by Daesh or ISIS for committing its atrocities throughout the world. Both of these depend upon the belief that “the other” is somehow inferior, and therefore undeserving of the epithet of “human being”. Indigenous peoples worldwide have a direct and historical understanding of this phenomenon.
The Long March to Rome is determined to continue highlighting and increasing public awareness of the impact of these Papal Bulls of Discovery. The time has now come for indigenous leaders to come forward and to bring the message of the Papal Bulls of Discovery to the World in their own words. And the time has also come for the Vatican to come to terms with the fact that the sole honourable way to put an end to this is to finally repeal the Papal Bulls of Discovery.