EPF Doctrine of Discovery Talk

Join EPF for our monthly chapter support call on Friday, August 27 at 2:00 pm Eastern over Zoom for an hour of learning on the Doctrine of Discovery. Email epfactnow@gmail.com for the Zoom link.

Papal Bulls of the 15th century gave Christian explorers the right to claim lands they “discovered” and lay claim to those lands for their Christian Monarchs. Any land that was not inhabited by Christians was available to be “discovered,” claimed, and exploited.  These Papal Bulls laid the groundwork for what we know today as international law, because they were generally accepted as legal rules that governed the conduct of monarchs (or nations), vis-à-vis other monarchs (or nations).

This Discovery Doctrine, or ‘Doctrine of Discovery,’ then became a notion of public international law proffered by the United States Supreme Court in a series of decisions, initially in Johnson v. M’Intosh in 1823.  Under it, title to newly discovered lands lay with the government whose subjects discovered new territory. The doctrine has been primarily used to support decisions invalidating or ignoring Indigenous possession of land in favor of colonial or post-colonial governments. The Doctrine of Discovery governs United States Indian Law today.  

Please join us for a presentation offered by the Rev. Deacon Chris Sabas, showcasing the doctrine’s history and how it still impacts US jurisprudence today.  Prior to being ordained to the vocational diaconate, Deacon Chris was a licensed attorney, focusing on US immigration law.  After closing her practice, she joined Christian Peacemaker Teams and served within a variety of Indigenous communities where she focused on how the Doctrine of Discovery currently impacted the communities’ claims to sovereignty.  She also is a member of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship's National Executive Council. 

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