II – The Doctrine of Discovery

chief-justice-john-marshall-IIn 1823, Justice Marshall of the US Supreme Court ruled that when the European nations discovered America “they asserted the ultimate dominion to be in themselves; and claimed and exercised, as a consequence of this ultimate dominion, a power to grant the soil, while yet in possession of the natives.”

When I first heard this, I wondered how these foreign monarchs who had no knowledge of our ways or our lands and had never seen the Americas could assert the “ultimate dominion to be in themselves” even while yet in the possession of the natives?


And so I set out to learn how a foreign king could steal lands from my forefathers.


In this way, by searching and asking these questions, I learned that the right to seize the lands of my ancestors, and the right to enslave our peoples and the right to treat indigenous peoples as less than human was not originally created by the US government, nor by their judges, nor by the European explorers who first made these claims, nor even by the kings who had sent them to our lands. This right came from the mouths of two men who claimed to be speaking in the name of Creator five hundred years ago. These two men who claimed to speak in the name of God had a name for our sacred lands, lands upon which they had never set eye. They called our land Terra Nullius which means “land belonging to no-one”. So I learned that the right to claim all lands in America as Terra Nullius was not created by the US government or courts. Nor did it begin with the explorers nor even the Kings of Europe. The right to seize our lands on the basis of Terra Nullius was created by a man who claimed he was the successor to St Peter himself, the Pope in the Vatican, and who proclaimed he spoke in the name of God.