Papal bull from 1400s treated American Indians as cattle. Ruling still applies today.
By Stephen Rex Brown
That was the message Tuesday from the Onondaga Nation, which is calling on the new Pope to revoke the so-called Discovery Doctrine, which evolved from a papal decree written by Pope Nicholas V in 1455.
“Now is the time for the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church to extend a hand and talk about these issues,” said Tonya Frichner, the president of the American Indian Law Alliance.
The Discovery Doctrine was a key element in the moral justification of the European conquest of indigenous people around the world and remains influential in legal circles.
In the U.S., it is often cited as a way of arguing that the nomadic Native Americans occupied the land but did not own it.
“The doctrine of discovery put us in the same place as the buffaloes and rabbits, roaming the land,” said Oren Lyons, a faith keeper of the Turtle Clan in the Onondaga nation. “We didn't have right of title to land, but rather occupancy.”
Below: "Pope Nicholas V—it was his papal bull that led to the Discovery Doctrine."