Doctrine of the Discovery and Its Impact on American Indian and Alaskan Indian Health Care
Guest review. In 1492, Christopher Columbus set out, on behalf of the Spanish government, to find an eastern nautical passage to Asia. Much to the surprise of Spain and all European powers, Columbus instead found a land mass that had been inhabited since time immemorial. This was one of the first recorded contacts between European and tribal nations. According to the diplomatic standards of the 15e century, Columbus and Spain could have sought to establish diplomatic relations between the nations, which could have led to trade opportunities between the tribes and Europe. However, the European powers had other ideas. Avoiding any pretext for diplomacy, the Catholic Church sought to legally justify the colonization of the land mass, which it would later call “America”.
On May 4, 1493, Pope Alexander VI published a papal bull entitled “Inter Caetera”, which justified that Christian nations encroach on the sovereignty of non-Christian nations by declaring: “that the barbarian nations be overthrown and brought back to the faith itself. same. . This document provided a ‘legal’ justification for the colonization of the Americas by stating that the sovereignty of Christian nations supplant that of non-Christian nations. It also presented a theme that would permeate the relationship between tribal nations and European powers, as well as their sovereign successor, the United States of America The document substantiated the belief that being non-Christian (or “uncivilized”) made you less than human.
This philosophy persisted during the founding of the United States of America. In 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence “ruthless Indian savages.” Additionally, despite the United States Constitution specifically recognizing the sovereignty of tribal nations, the United States Supreme Court incorporated the doctrine of discovery into American law in the 1824s. Johnson vs. Mc’Intosh when they declared that “the discovery gave title to the government by whose subjects or by whose authority it was made against all other European governments, a title which could be consumed by possession … [t]The history of America from its discovery to the present day proves, we believe, the universal recognition of these principles.
[NOTE: This article was originally published by the National Indian Health Board. Used with permission. All rights reserved.]
The statement that “the barbarian nations must be … brought to the faith itself” was also fundamental to understanding the approach to education that European countries and the United States would take with indigenous peoples. Even before the official creation of the Federal Indian Residential Schools at the end of the 19e century, there were schools designed to “Christianize” the natives. A notable example is Moor’s Charity School in Lebanon, Connecticut, which was established by Rev. Eleazar Wheelock. Wheelock will use the “success” of Moor’s Charity School to raise funds for the establishment of Dartmouth College in 1769. Dartmouth’s charter stated that it was founded, in part, “for the education and instruction of young people. of the Indian tribes of this country in reading, writing and all the parts of the learning which will appear necessary and useful to civilize and Christianize the children of pagans[.]Many of these early schools were founded by Christian groups, often missionaries, and often with the full support of European powers, and later the US government. In 1819, Congress passed the Civilization Fund Act, which provided funds for these groups to establish and operate boarding schools.
In 1871, the United States stopped making treaties with tribes and began to move towards a policy of complete eradication of tribal nations. One of the primary means of achieving this political goal involved the establishment of boarding schools that would “civilize” Indigenous children and indoctrinate them into mainstream American society. This was to be the final phase of the call “that the barbarian nations be overthrown and brought to the faith itself” that had been made almost 400 years before and the ultimate goal of the Doctrine of Discovery. During the founding of the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, General Richard Henry Pratt declared that his mission was to “kill the Indian and save man”.
The creation of the Carlisle Indian School was a turning point. The US government (and states) was no longer content to simply issue charters and funding to individuals like Wheelock, it was embarking on the enterprise of “civilizing” indigenous peoples. The formal establishment of residential schools was a more aggressive approach to responding to the call of “Inter Caetera”. The Carlisle Indian School was one of many boarding schools founded for this purpose and operated from 1879 to 1918. After the closure of Carlisle, the boarding schools continued to operate throughout the 20e century. During these years, countless indigenous children have been involuntarily taken from their homes and forced to travel to a foreign country, hundreds of kilometers from their homeland. Many of them never returned. The decision to send the children so far from home was intentional. Residential schools were to remove the child from his home, customs and family ties to force him to “civilize”.
The internship experience was a failure in many ways. The tribal nations are still there, and we persist despite repeated attempts to suppress them. He also never achieved General Pratt’s goal of “saving man.” In fact, residential schools caused untold damage to native people. Generations of children were taken from their homes and many of them died and were buried in mass graves. Those who survived the experience were traumatized by the harsh conditions of the residential schools. Entire generations of many tribes have been lost, both dead and devastated by the trauma of the experience.
Indigenous people had to contend with the historical trauma caused by residential schools and their predecessors. The doctrine of discovery is directly responsible for the residential school experience. The call “that barbarian nations be overthrown and brought back to the faith itself” fueled an insidious ideology that favored the “civilization” of indigenous children over their well-being. He provided the rationale for the disruption of indigenous communities, in pursuit of the nebulous goal of “civilization”. He provided the rationale for the subjugation of tribal sovereignty that would make even such an endeavor possible. Understanding the internship experience requires understanding the ideology that led to its existence. The Doctrine of Discovery has caused untold damage to Indigenous communities and our people continue to count with its fallout.
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