Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery International Conference to Take Place in Phoenix, Arizona

Editor November 28, 2012 1

Arizona Community Press | www.azcommunitypress.org

In March, 2012 TONATIERRA organized an Indigenous Peoples Forum on the Doctrine of Discovery at the Arizona State Capitol House of Representatives. The purpose of this forum was to bring forward the perspectives and historical processes which frame the inter-relationships between the Nations and Pueblos of Indigenous Peoples of the territory and the hemisphere, in terms of our coexistence with the States which are direct beneficiaries of the Doctrine of Discovery in the Americas.

The Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery International Conference is planned for April, 2013 at ASU West in Glendale, Arizona to continue the conversation.

The intention of moving deliberately out of the age of colonialism and towards decolonization, called upon to define and determine for ourselves as “Peoples, equal to all other Peoples” the criteria of fundamental processes required to guide this vision of our political, economic, cultural, and spiritual liberation from the schema of domination which has been normalized and justified by the Doctrine of Discovery for over five hundred years.

The report of the Forum in Arizona was presented in May of 2012 to the 11th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York. Two recommendations from this session of the UNPFII are especially pertinent to our conference in April, 2013:

4. The Permanent Forum recalls the fourth preambular paragraph of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which affirms that all doctrines, policies and practices based on or advocating superiority of peoples or individuals on the basis of national origin or racial, religious, ethnic or cultural differences are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust. Legal and political justification for the dispossession of indigenous peoples from their lands, their disenfranchisement and the abrogation of their rights such as the doctrine of discovery, the doctrine of domination, “conquest”, “discovery”, terra nullius or the Regalian doctrine were adopted by colonizers throughout the world. While these nefarious doctrines were promoted as the authority for the acquisition of the lands and territories of indigenous peoples, there were broader assumptions implicit in the doctrines, which became the basis for the assertion of authority and control over the lives of indigenous peoples and their lands, territories and resources. Indigenous peoples were constructed as “savages”, “barbarians”, “backward” and “inferior and uncivilized” by the colonizers who used such constructs to subjugate, dominate and exploit indigenous peoples and their lands, territories and resources. The Permanent Forum calls upon States to repudiate such doctrines as the basis for denying indigenous peoples’ human rights.

9. The Permanent Forum recommends that States include in all education curricula, in particular the school system, a discussion of the doctrine of discovery/dispossession and its contemporary manifestations, including land laws and policies of removal.

The two-day conference to take place in April has generated a great surge of interest and commitment from indigenous academics, activists, and traditional leaders from the entire to generated a great surge of interest and commitment from indigenous academics, activists, and traditional leaders from the entire continent.

Participants at the conference at ASU West will include Faith Keeper Oren Lyons of the Onondaga Nation, Aucan Huilcaman of the Mapuche Nation [Chile], and representatives of the traditional indigenous peoples of Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Mexico. Professor Robert Miller, Professor Robert Williams, and Steve Newcomb of the Indigenous Law Institute and Tonya Gonella Frischner of the American Indian Law Alliance will be presenting at the conference. Representatives of the North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus plan to attend.

The national association of Unitarian Universalist Congregations, who at their Justice Conference in Phoenix last summer adopted a resolution repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery, will also be directly engaged in the process of the event in order to bring the issues forward nationally and around the world.

A primary objective of the conference at ASU West in Glendale in the spring will be the producing of a template in the form of a curriculum that could be implemented in the public schools of Arizona in consequence to the Indigenous Peoples Forum which we hosted at the Arizona State Capitol. Such a template could then be replicated and adapted for use in public venues of education in other states, and throughout Indian Country.

You can find out more about this conference by contacting TONATIERRA.