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The Vatican rejects the ‘doctrine of discovery’ used to justify colonial rule News


Using 15th-century papal decrees, European colonial powers captured and claimed indigenous lands in the Americas and elsewhere. Now, in a significant move centuries later, the Vatican on Thursday rejected the controversial “Doctrine of Discovery,” addressing a longstanding lawsuit led by indigenous groups in Canada.

The church recognized in a statement that these papal bulls “did not adequately reflect the equal dignity and rights of indigenous peoples”, and said that the doctrine is not part of the teaching of the Catholic Church.

Indigenous groups have argued that European explorers used the principle of discovery, which was based on the supposed superiority of European Christians, to legally and morally justify the subjugation and exploitation of indigenous communities and rule over them.

The Vatican statement also acknowledged that colonial settlers committed acts of violence against indigenous communities and apologized for “the terrible effects of assimilation policies and the pain” they experienced. The doctrine of discovery was previously rejected by several faith communities in the United States and Canada.

Canadian Justice Minister David Lametti credited the Vatican’s statement to the hard work of indigenous communities. “A doctrine that should never have existed. This is another step forward,” he said. in a tweet.

The latest move follows the reconciliation Pope Francis sought in Canada during his visit last year, when he apologized for the role Christians played in the tragic history of its residential school systems, many of which were run by the Catholic Church in the 19th and 20th centuries. centuries.

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Indigenous children in Canada were forcibly separated from their families to integrate them into a Euro-Christian society, where they had to renounce their language and culture; many were sexually abused. Thousands of children died in these schools and their anonymous graves continue to be discovered.

During his trip last year, Francisco faced protesters holding banners asking him to rescind the doctrine of discovery.

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This week’s announcement was welcomed by indigenous advocates. The news was “wonderful,” Phil Fontaine, former national head of the Assembly of First Nations in Canada, said. Associated Press.

“The church has done one thing, as it said it would, for the Holy Father,” said Fontaine, who was part of the First Nations delegation that met with Francis. “Now the ball is in the court of the governments, the United States and Canada, but particularly in the United States, where the doctrine is embedded in the law.”

at a milestone 1823 In this case, US Chief Justice John Marshall invoked the doctrine of papal discovery to rule that indigenous peoples only had rights of occupancy and not ownership. This case law on Native American lands has persisted over the years and was most recently mentioned in 2005.

A New York court, in the case of City of Sherrill v. Oneida Nation, it was based on the earlier acceptance of the discovery doctrine by courts. Those rulings inferred that title to the land was given to European settlers and, later, to the United States government.

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In recent years, the movement to reclaim Native American lands has grown in the United States. In January 2022, 523 acres of redwood forest in Mendocino County, California were transferred to the Sinkyone Wilderness Intertribal Council and, in April, the Rappahannock tribe reacquired 460 acres of ancestral land in Virginia after 350 years.

Most Native American lands are trust lands, the United States Government It says: Lands where title is held by the federal government but beneficial interests are with the tribes.

He The United Nations said in 2012 that international law requires governments rectify the mistakes caused by said colonial doctrines, “including the violation of the territorial rights of indigenous peoples, through the reform of laws and policies”.



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