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Sepwepemc Arthur Manuel, UN, Geneva, 2004 - Photo: Russell Diablo
CONTRIBUTION · 27th April 2012
Arthur Manuel
Dear Friends:

Here is a paper - Attached below - on the Colonial Doctrines of Discovery prepared for the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues by the Haudenosaunee and the American Indian Law Alliance and Indigenous Law Institute of North America. This paper will be presented at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, New York in May 2012.

I firmly believe that the Colonial Doctrines of Discovery need to be challenged by each and every indigenous person here in North America.

When did you learn from the settlers that you were a discovered person. Think back to that when you were just a kid finding out that because you were discovered the settlers had the God given right to dominate over us.

Everyone of us so called Indians had to learn that we were discovered. That is sick. It is the beginning of the twisted and racist laws that say we are not full human beings. It says because we are not full human beings Canada and the United States can steal our land and systematically impoverish us generation after generation. That is what makes the Colonial Doctrines of Discovery evil. It is a violation of our human rights as Indigenous Peoples.

The Colonial Doctrines of Discovery is equal to the slave laws, segregation based on race within domestic setting and apartheid.

Canada and the United States have built, for example, economically very powerful countries because our land was rich and very strong. It was rich and strong because we lived a green and sustainable economy. That is why settlers originally came to North America, because we had a continent that was rich. Settlers came to North America because the water was clean not because it is polluted like it is today.

Who had the richer and civilized system when you boil it down and compare it to global warming and what the Eurocentric economist pray is civilization and progress.

Indeed, challenging the Colonial Doctrines of Discovery is to 'put right' the wrong that the church put on man's relationship to our planet.

Man is not supposed to dominate the planet but live with-the-planet the way our Elders handed down to us since some 600 years ago.

We are related to the trees, animals, plants, air and all that makes life for man. If we hurt one of our relatives or take help from one of our relatives, we need to pray and realize that, which will come back to impact us now or in the future. Cashing in on our resources today will have impact on our grandkids tomorrow.

Therefore gagging our lives and civilization purely on a "cash profit" is totally stupid and uncivilized but that is what the Eurocentric type of economy is based on. That is why Indigenous Peoples need to address what a balanced economy, based on values we have learnt, must be central in building a new economy here in North America.

I know the Occupation of Wall Street was a good sign that the ordinary American and Canadian are starting to wake up to the fact that leaving economic thinking up to Wall Street was not very smart. Greed needs to be controlled by regulation including greed that destroys our planet. That is part of the message that Indigenous Peoples need to help Europeans understand when it comes to applying a green and sustainable economy on the ground. We will have to make sacrifices.

Nevertheless, the start of this kind of change is to get rid of the ugly and evil beginnings of settlement in North America that are based on the Colonial Doctrines of Discovery. That will begin evening up the balance between settlers and Indigenous Peoples.

It will recognize we are human beings who have sovereignty over our lands and the right to self-determination. It will also put back in perspective that settlers have a right to be here as human beings and not because of some crazy sailor like Columbus, Cook, Chaplain or Cabot. (Funny I remember their names like they were part of the family, that is how effective the white settler school was in brain washing me.) Those so called explorers are nothing more than they were, just a bunch of sailors. God never gave them special rights to declare that our property from under our feet belonged to their financiers, namely, their King or Queen.

We need to challenge the legal systems in Canada and the USA. We need to make it clear that the Courts cannot allow the federal and provincial/state governments use the Colonial Doctrines of Discovery as a legal defence because it is a racist doctrine that discriminates against the proprietary rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We need to pull back the curtain on what Canada and the USA have been using as their dominating and illegitimate control over our lives as Indigenous Peoples. We need to struggle for the power to once again become responsible for protecting our lands for future generations.

Canada, USA, New Zealand and Australia voted against the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples because they saw it was the beginning of the end to the anomaly or imbalance that exists here on this planet regarding Indigenous Peoples.

The Declaration is the beginning of the international community starting to unravel the racism and systemic human rights violations that exist behind the establishment of the big four countries that voted against the Declaration.

It is our job to make the Legal System very complicit in furthering this kind of human rights violations until they stop doing it like they stopped enforcing slavery and segregation. They are conservative so it will take awhile to do this but it must start now.

You do not need to be a lawyer to challenge this kind of sick thinking. You can demonstrate against the Settler Courts when you hear the federal and provincial/state governments are using the Colonial Doctrines of Discovery as a defence in a case against Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.

You can bring the "chickens home to roost" yourself.

Think about it anyways.


Arthur Manuel is a spokesperson for the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade. Former Chief of the Neskonlith Band and chairperson of the Interior Alliance of BC First Nations, Manuel has been a leading voice of opposition to the Canadian government's agenda to "extinguish" Aboriginal and Treaty rights and assimilate Indigenous peoples into the Canadian body politic. Active locally in defense of Shuswap land (during the expansion of the Sun Peaks resort), and at the national level, he has also taken the struggle international, following in the path of his father, the late George Manuel, President of the National Indian Brotherhood and founder of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples.
This doctrine is still in effect!
Comment by Janice Robinson on 29th April 2012
What little I know about this doctrine I learned last week from a wise Gitxsan man I met at a meeting sponsored by the United Church of Canada. Pope Pius VI had a lot to say in support of this murderous doctrine. The "explorers" Mr. Arthur Manuel speaks of had The Doctrine of Discovery written on their dark hearts. Their intentions were clearly understood: Upon "discovery" of foreign lands rich in resources, precious metels, spices, etc., this doctrine directs them to....#1. Rid those lands of any inhabitants who happen to be there. #2. Prepare to extract said precious resources from the land, and send them all home for use, and for profit.

Currently, the magnificent Tsimshian Nation is seriously divided and isolated from eachother (thanks be to the ignorant and naive betrayals contained within our "treaty" process). I agree with our Tsimshian Elders who tell us this treaty process must be stopped, and the federal and provincial governments must negotiate with the Tsimshian Nation as a whole, and to immediately cease pillaging precious resources by exploiting us village by humble village.

I believe our non-Tsimshian (non-Native) friends and relatives are depending on us to do the right thing(s), and facilitate respect for this territory God gave us. All our great-grandchildren (red, white, black and yellow) need us to do the right things now.

The Doctrine of Discovery must be recognized as alive....and properly addressed and dealt with.