I was told, from the earliest age, that Columbus had discovered America. I recall my teachers assigning us to draw his ships and being greeted by Natives on some imagined shore. This was the education of white supremacy. I recall being insistent to the teacher that he couldn’t have discovered the New World if Natives were here to greet him. I was being cultivated as a racist and inducted into the established world of Colonialism. I was reprimanded as an unwilling participant of this farce.
As I worked my way through adolescence, and I learned more about the tragedy imposed upon Native Americans by the government I had pledged my allegiance to, the more reluctant I became of supporting the stars and stripes.
I have spent much time imagining Indigenous people here, on Turtle Island, living in harmony with the Earth before European contact. And I grieve for the great injustice and genocide bestowed upon them for the sake of greed.
If you are not familiar with the Doctrine of Discovery please educate yourself to better understand the foundation of our laws. It is an abhorrent document invoked in 1493 by Pope Alexander VI and it justified colonization and seizure of land not inhabited by Christians.
This is the foundation of entitlement and genocide upon which we have built our country. It has denied Native Americans sovereignty and if we look at Chief Justice John Marshall’s opinion in the 1823 case Johnson v. McIntosh, we see that Indigenous people had the right to occupy land only, which could also be abolished. Without this Papal Bull, what have we really and who are we to presume it is of good Christian virtue of which we are entitled?
I denounce the Doctrine of Discovery and suggest its intent and reprehensible language be invalidated and rendered null and void. I cannot imagine a more toxic instrument which has delivered us to this place in time. By many accounts, our planet is struggling to exist, due to excess and out of control consumerism.
In honor of Indigenous People’s Day please consider the ancient and harmonious existence the pre-contact Natives practiced and the wisdom the Europeans and other immigrants have tried to strip from them. I believe it would behoove us and our planet to look to the Wabanaki Confederacy’s wisdom to help guide us into the future. We can act as individuals, if not collectively.
Although Indigenous People’s Day is a giant leap forward in recognition of a vital culture, we need to recognize it as a step to a pathway of reconciliation. I am grateful for this day and the work of the Wabanaki, Janet Mills and the State of Maine to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day!