GA learns about Doctrine of Discovery on first day

Steve Newcomb

Steven T. Newcomb (Shawnee/Lenape), cofounder and codirector of the Indigenous Law Institute, a fellow with the American Indian Policy and Media Initiative at Buffalo State College, and author of Pagans in the Promised Land, introduces the history of the Doctrine of Discovery during the Opening Ceremony of the UUA General Assembly in Phoenix, Ariz., on June 20, 2012.

Many people at General Assembly might not have known much about the Doctrine of Discovery, but that all changed at the opening plenary Wednesday night.

The doctrine is the premise that European Christian explorers who “discovered” other lands had the authority to claim those lands and subdue, even enslave, peoples of those lands simply because they were not Christian. The human rights groups that the UUA is partnering with in Arizona had asked this General Assembly to study that doctrine as a necessary step in understanding the historic and continuing oppression of indigenous peoples.

Steve Newcomb, author of a book on the doctrine, told GA participants in a keynote address, “The Doctrine of Discovery is not something relegated to the past. It’s very much present.” Delegates will be asked in Sunday’s plenary to approve a responsive resolution repudiating the doctrine.

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