Friday, February 5, 2016

Mexico: Indigenous Peoples demand that Pope Francis rescind the "Doctrine of Discovery"

Araceli Burguete Cal y Mayor
February 3, 2016 

On February 9 and 10, 2016 a delegation of Indigenous Peoples from the United States, Mexico and other Latin American countries, will be in Chiapas, Mexico to deliver a message to Pope Francis, in the form of a call to conscience petitioning him to take action and issue an official denunciation directed towards the dismantling of the "Doctrine of Discovery of Christendom". 

The Holy See has a historic responsibility. The colonial order established by the papal bulls in the sixteenth century remain the main factor that creates violations of individual and collective human rights of indigenous peoples in the world. The "Doctrine of Discovery" is considered as a principle obstacle to realization of the right of self-determination and autonomy for Indigenous Peoples as recognized in the "UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples" (2007). The call to conscience directed to Pope Francis is an international petition to intervene with commitment and corrective action as a member state of the UN system to help deconstruct the foundations of colonial domination. 

The European colonization of indigenous peoples in this continent has as its starting point the papal bulls, particularly those issued Pope Alejandro VI, who proceeded to divide the world between the Christian kings. The Alexandrine bulls issued in 1493 are a set of five papal documents of arbitration which purported to grant to the Crown of Castile the right to "conquer" the "newly discovered lands" along with the obligation to evangelize the Indigenous Peoples into the Roman Catholic Religion.

The legal concept that that prevailed at the time was the idea of "terra nullis", i.e. uninhabited lands (or inhabited by non-Christians, and therefore whose existence was discounted), so that the conquering empires invading from Europe took full control of those territories under a procedure which was given legal context under norms of Christendom. By act of juridical recognition given by the Papacy, the Vatican acting as the King of Kings of Christendom purported to give the "conquered" Indigenous Peoples as "infidels" over to the dominion of the Christian monarchs in order to advance Christianization. The Papal bulls today remain as the fundamental deeds of title and dominion in the Americas imposed by centuries of violence against the Original Nations who in have since been designated as "indigenous". 

The semantic field of the papal bulls is replete with commands of violence: concepts like "conquer", "subdue" and "subject" provide the pillars of a conceptual “Framework of Dominance” directing and sanctifying the genocidal acts upon indigenous territories. The bulls issued by the Holy See configured the "Framework of Dominance" in the relationship of the Empires of Christendom first, and then again when subsequently as the nation-state republics emerged as successors to the jurisdictions of dominion given by the Papal Bulls. The permanence of the colonial relationship of Indigenous Peoples under the constitutional frameworks of the states of the Americas is sustained until today. The nation states of the Americas have extended their franchise of dominion by the policy of domesticating the Original Nations under systems of "internal colonization". 

At the ninth session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues held in New York (19-30 April 2010), Tonya Gonnella Frichner, Special Rapporteur, presented a report on the consequences for the indigenous peoples of the international legal construct known as the "Doctrine of Discovery", which has served as the basis for the violation of human rights of indigenous peoples. The report states: "We hold that the principle stated in the fifteenth century as the law of Christianity, whereby the discovery gave title to assume sovereignty over unconverted natives of Africa, Asia and North and South America and to govern, has been recognized for almost four centuries ago, as part of the 'law of nations' national legislation, and today is recognized by every Christian power, both in the political and judicial. "

In today’s context, the nation states have assumed to be the political heirs of their European Christian colonial predecessors, invoking a "right of succession" over the territories of the colonized Indigenous Peoples, in occupation and dispossession the land of the Original Nations.  This political assumption is given legal credence and legitimacy under the domestic and international court systems even today, due to the underlying intellectual framework of law which the Doctrine of Discovery provides. As is stated in the 2010 UN Preliminary Report many modern states of the world assume to be "political successors of those rights vindicated of conquest and domination based on the Doctrine of Discovery".

The nation states in Americas today have extended their claims of dominion for the same purposes as established in the sixteenth century: the plundering of the riches and labor of indigenous territories. In the process, since October 12, 1492 a “legal” framework built upon racist assumptions has perpetuated the colonial relationship. That is why in the nineteenth century, after independence from Spain, the Indigenous Peoples of this hemisphere and did not regain the freedom that had been taken from them in the sixteenth century. Instead their nationhood became once again subverted under the colonial national superstructures created by those who assumed to be the legitimate heirs of the original European colonizers and today it is they who administer the governments of the states, extending their claims for eminent domain over the entire territory of the continent. Thus the Original Nations of Abya Yala [Americas] are denied their historical and lawful rights of proprietary interest in their own territories, collective rights that emanate from cultural responsibilities to protect the Mother Earth in an unbroken chain of resistance since the original European invasion.

For example in the case of Mexico, the tenure of the land passed from the "Dominion of the King" to a concept of "original property of the nation" regarding property rights over the soil and subsoil. This principle was enshrined in Article 27 of the Constitution of 1917 and constitutes the base for claims of state sovereignty "of the nation" (in ethnic monopoly), subjecting the Indigenous Peoples and their territories to a role as minions incorporated under the national dominion. 

The land reforms that occurred in Mexico between 1940 and 1990 were based on these same principles with the result being the open plunder of indigenous lands, with structural reforms that pushed for the privatization of communal territories, reserves of petroleum and water resources. It is exactly the same rationalization in which today the nation-state claims the right to deliver indigenous territories as commodities for wind farm projects and mineral extraction leases, on behalf of the economic interests of "the nation". 

Thus, based on the principle of "original property of the nation," the Mexican state that emerged with the 1917 Constitution extended the regime of domination over Indigenous Peoples, denying them their liberty. That was how "the Indian" personality was constructed as a caste in Mexico; that's also how the colonial status of "indigenous" was created. These are categories of identity that obviously did not exist before the framework of domination established via the "Doctrine of Discovery" which was legitimized and sanctified by the papal bulls. 

Because of the historical responsibility of the Holy See regarding the reality of internal colonialism in Mexico and across the continent that perpetuates the ongoing violations of individual and collective human rights of indigenous peoples and blocks the realization of their Right of Self-determination recognized in international and national law, the time has come for his holiness to finally and for the first time listen to the call to conscience of the Original Nations. 

In the recent and not so recent past, various Indigenous Nations and organizations have addressed these concerns to Pope Francis and those before him, to demand the commitment of the Holy See to take corrective actions that must lead to the rescinding of the doctrine’s dehumanizing legal framework has become the norm, and thus contribute to the dismantling of the "Doctrine of Discovery". 

To this end, on February 9-10, 2016 a Continental Commission Abya Yala integrated by Indigenous Peoples of the United States, Mexico and other Latin American countries, will convene in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas in order to make known to the national public opinion of Mexico and the international community in global echo the pervasive situations of violence and impunity, lack of respect for life and dignity of Indigenous Peoples which have become normalized by the permanence of the "framework domination".

This gathering of the Continental Commission Abya Yala is a continuation of two previous events organized by the Original Nations of the Great Turtle Island Abya Yala. First in November 2013, with the V Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Nationalities of Abya Yala held at La Maria Piendamó, Cauca, Colombia, and the second held on September 23, 2015 Lenape Nation Territories [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - United States of North America].

Translation: TONATIERRA




Framework of Dominance: UN Preliminary Study on the Doctrine of Discovery 


DECOLONIZATION and the Vatican State: Issues of Complicity and Collusion


Fall Equinox 2015: Statement of the Continental Commission Abya Yala



Tupak Huehuecoyotl: Kuauhtli Kundur Abya Yala

Actualizing the Prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor for Indigenous Self Determination

"The question is no longer whether the Doctrine of Discovery as it is still being perpetuated in policy and practice across the hemisphere is valid. That question has been answered, definitively and finally. There is no moral, legal, or cultural presentation that can legitimately argue that the theory of the Divine Right of Kings, which spawned the Doctrine of Discovery by Christendom, can hold any validity in a democratic society. What is in question now, is on what side of history will each of us as individuals, as families, as communities, as nations and as Human Beings stand. Will we stand up in continental uprising to DISMANTLE the DOCTRINE OF DISCOVERY, or will we comply with the dehumanizing regimes of state sanctioned genocide and colonization that continue to prop up the racist relics and psychological pathogens of the European American project of colonization known as America?”




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