History writes that Columbus ‘discovered’ the Americas and the Indigenous peoples while in search for treasures for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, of Spain. Spain was part of the ‘mercantile‘ empires and strived for profit to the nation, moreso than settlement. They would gain control of mainland South America and also have colonies, in North America located in Florida, Mexico and California.
Upon this ‘discovery’ of the America’s, other European nations questioned Spain and the legalities, to make such claims of the America’s, due to the ‘potential‘ resources that would fall into control of Spain. A common practice in Europe, in regards to ‘discoveries of lands and resources’ was to seek out the advice of the Pope and have ‘Papal Bulls‘ awarding the state, these new lands.
Pope Alexander IV was the reigning head of Church in Spain. He is considered one of the most corrupt Popes yet admired for his diplomatic, political and administrative skills, for avoiding outright wars against the Church. As a graduate in law and rise through the ranks of Church, thanks to familial ties, along with gaining influence amongst his peers, he would learn to balance and take full advantage, of building the power base of his family, The Borgia’s, with his papal position.
The year of 1455, Pope Nicholas V had issued a Papal Bull called the ‘Romanus Pontifex‘ to Portugal, which awarded permissions to conquer and claim lands of Indigenous peoples NOT subjects of European Christian monarchs. Following this precedent, Pope Alexander IV met with lawyers and provided the Spanish monarchy, May 4, 1493, with their own Papal Bull, the Inter Caetera Divinai, which would declare the following:
‘The Pope could place non-Christian peoples under the tutelage and guardianship of the first Christian nation discovering their lands as long as those peoples were reported by the discovering Christian nation to be ‘well disposed to embrace the Christian faith‘. ~ (‘Our Elders Understand Our Rights’, by Sharon Helen Venne)
The Inter Caetera Divinai papal bull, would lay the foundations, and be applied to all Indigenous peoples, for the next 500 + years. It would be followed by many European nations to treat the Indigenous peoples, as ‘objects’ rather than as human beings. This papal bull would justify the rationale, that non-Christians could not own lands when faced with Christian sovereigns.
European colonizers would relocate, displace and strip lands from the Indigenous peoples and deny them rights, to govern themselves. It would become the ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ which would prevent recognition of the Indigenous peoples as ‘Nations’ and be used to make ‘racist laws’, such as a few of the following, practiced in the United States:
- Fugitive Slave Law, 1793
- Indian Removal Act, 1830
- Slavery, 1500- 1865
- Suppression of Native American Indian Religion, repealed 1978
- Anti-Coolie Act, 1862
- Residential Schools System, 1879-1900
- Jim Crow Laws, 1876-1965
- Lynching, 1700-1960
Canada would also enact laws, that were not favorable for their Indigenous peoples and can be found under the Indian Act (IA), 1876, but other laws were also created, to control immigration of the Chinese. They would get some relief after their support in WWII. Canadian Aboriginals would continue to suffer with laws designed to continue removing lands and rights even after they had also served in WWII. A few of these laws are as follows:
- 1881, prohits the sale of agricultural produce by Aboriginals in the Prairie provinces without a permit from an Indian agent. As of 2008, this law still stands in the Indian Act though it’s not enforced.
- 1885, IA is amended to prevent potlatches and religious ceremonies
- 1911, IA is amended to allow municipalities and companies to expropriate portions of reserves, without surrender, for roads, railways and other public works. Further amended to allow a Judge to move an entire reserve away from a municipality if it was deemed ‘expedient’. Also known as the ‘Oliver Act’.
- 1927, IA is amended to prevent anyone, Aboriginal or otherwise, from soliciting funds for Indian legal claims without a special license from the Superintendent-General. It would stop any First Nation from pursuing a land claim.
Today, the Doctrine of Discovery (adopted in 1823, and) remains part of US laws, as implemented in the Johnson v. McIntosh or the recent Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation (2005) court decisions. Efforts, by Aboriginals in both USA and Canada along with the Episcopal Church (US and Canada), have been made to request the Pope and Queen of Britain, to revoke the Inter Caetera Divinai papal bull, but recieve no co-operation. It has been considered ‘not juridically valid‘ but remains in existence therefore still endangering Indigenous peoples around the world.
Society is said to be continuously evolving for a better world. This can be seen with the co-operation between nations (United Nations) and use of diplomacy along with a rise of human rights. Yet, this particular document, the Inter Caetera Divinai, continues to allow, for continued acts of atrocities and inhumanity, against Indigenous Peoples, right in their own homelands, globally. Do you believe that God blesses those who commit crimes against others?
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Article(C)2009 An Informal Cornr, all rights reserved. Ginsense writes articles on business skills, development, health, science, technology and society and enjoys advocating for independence, security and a better world for all of us.