Dismantling: The Divine Right of States of the Americas

After two days of public engagement and discussion last week, an alliance of Confederations of Nations of Indigenous Peoples of Abya Yala [the Americas] is moving forward into a continental and global process of DISMANTLING the Doctrine of Discovery as the intellectual, religious and political justification for the raison d’Etat of the government states of the Americas, and around the world.

The Alliance of Abya Yala that participated in the DISMANTLING the Doctrine of Discovery International Conference at ASU West April 19-20, 2013 is pushing forward into the process of bringing to judgment and rectification at the local-regional, continental and global dimensions the continued institutionalization of the fundamental tenets of the Doctrine of Discovery as organizing principles that drive the policies and political relationships among the states in terms of Indigenous Peoples.  In priority among the issues in need of rectification is the question of “resource” extraction, in terms of land, water, genetic material, and indigenous labor. At the conference the connection was made between how the Doctrine of Discovery and the derivative Monroe Doctrine (aka the Divine Right of States) are implicit in the criminal collusion of government states and capitalist corporations in terms of mining concessions and immigration policies of the states.  Through the premise of the Divine Right of States (aka The Monroe Doctrine), these entities continue to perpetuate the illegal and criminal violation of the fundamental Human Rights of the Nations and Pueblos of Indigenous Peoples of Abya Yala [the Americas] at the expense of the wela, the well-being of all life on Earth.

Addressing other issues implicit in the process of DISMANTLING the Doctrine of Discovery, the two day conference last week brought forward in five thematic working groups a template of interrelated themes intended to produce collective corrective strategies for action that would be driven by grassroots constituencies in proactive manner. The themes are: Youth-Regeneration; Education-Cognition; Religion-Spirituality; Law-Harmony; and Environment-Pacha Mama.

The Conference at ASU West was convened in consequence to the Preliminary Study on the Impact of the Doctrine of Discovery commissioned by the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), and the specific recommendation given to the UN Economic and Social council by the UNPFII in 2012:

The Permanent Forum recommends that States include in all education curricula, in particular the school system, a discussion of the doctrine of discovery/dispossession and its contemporary manifestations, including land laws and policies of removal.

The co-conveners of the International conference consist a consortium of Indigenous organizations including TONATIERRA, Maya Vision, Techantit, and Frente Indigena de Organzaciones Binacinales (FIOB).  The Social Justice and Human Rights Program at ASU West hosted the event.

Chief Jake Edwards, Onondaga Nation, of the Haudenosaunee – the People of the Longhouse,[1] addressed the conference on the first day and shared the history of how the Haudenosaunee instructed the Founding Fathers of the original thirteen British colonies in their initial efforts to form the confederation of states that became the US in 1776.

As representatives of the oldest democracy in the hemisphere, the Haudenosaunee shared with the immigrant European settlers the principles of self-government that as a Traditional Confederacy of Indigenous Nations had been the original foundation of the political tradition of democratic self-government for over a thousand years in the continent known to Europe as “The New World.”

Also attending the conference were delegations of Nations and Pueblos of Indigenous Peoples from the entire hemisphere, from the Lenape of the North [Canada] to the Mapuche Nation of the South [Chile].  Representatives of the Maya of Totonicapan [Guatemala] and the Nahuat Pipil [El Salvador] joined with Indigenous Nations of the O’otham [Arizona] and the O’dam of Mexico [Durango] to receive the Continental Confederation of Indigenous Nations of Abya Yala intent on regenerating the historical and political vision of responsibility and traditional alliance that has sustained the collective cultural identity and nationhood of Indigenous Peoples for millennia. Representatives of the Havasupai Nation presented special gifts of exchange for the relatives from the south.

Faced with the oncoming wave of climate chaos scenarios that have been exacerbated by the phenomena of global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions from human industrialization, the gathering addressed the root causes of the “racial profiling” of Indigenous Peoples as “Indians” “Savages” “Minorities” and “Immigrants” in the eyes of the settlers from Europe and the subsequent state policies that have deformed and deviated from the traditional indigenous Mandate of Responsibility to the Future Generations since establishment on October 12, 1492 of the Doctrine of Discovery.

The delegations of Indigenous Peoples were not working in isolation last week.  They were joined by a diverse spectrum of non-indigenous activists and organizations and academic institutions including the leadership of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations who in their annual conference last summer in Phoenix, adopted a resolution repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery and calling for the full implementation of the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples across the country. Dr. Phil Arnold of Syracuse University was in attendance with the message of the Skä•noñh Center – Great Law of Peace Center at Onondaga Lake in New York.  Skä•noñh, is an Onondaga welcoming greeting meaning Peace and Wellness.

Nearly one hundred high school students from the Phoenix Union High School District and surrounding reservations also attended the conference at ASU West, as well as local leadership of both urban and reservation Native American communities.

A special installation by Zuni Pueblo artist, Edward Wemytewa highlighted the event, which concluded with a cultural celebration on Saturday evening April 20th.

The conference was streamed live via Internet, and the video archive will continue to be available on the conference website.  A report is being prepared and conference materials and resources will also be continuously edited and posted on the website as the DISMANTLING the Doctrine of Discovery process goes forward.  Next steps include a call for mass mobilization of CALM (Conscious Acts of Liberation and Meaning) and PUBLIC DECOLONIZATION next month 5 de Mayo, 2013 in Phoenix, Arizona.

The word mantel comes from the Latin “mantellum” which can be translated as a “cloak”.  The Doctrine of Discovery, as an instrument of European-American colonization and domination, continues to serve as the “Cloaking Device” which drives the continued normalization of colonialism in violation of the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the fundamental human dignity of all humanity.  In order to dismantle this intellectual pathogen, the first steps require clarity and courage, determination and perseverance.  Centuries of historical trauma will take generations to heal, but as Mother Earth bleeds and climate chaos is the event horizon that surrounds us all, we cannot put off to another generation the need to engage and commit to the necessary corrective actions required for collective decolonization.  This conference is dedicated to that purpose.

Youth – Regeneration
Youth attending the conference will be engaged in a series of activities that break down the meaning and purpose underlying the doctrine of discovery. They will be asked to reflect and share the ways in which they have been impacted by colonization in the classroom and as part of the broader community. Participating youth will develop a set of tools to help them engage their peers in discussion and build awareness around the doctrine of discovery and create their own strategies for dismantling it.

Religion – Spirituality:
This series of workshops will invite participants to share their own experiences and reflect upon how colonization and the doctrine of discovery have impacted our religious and spiritual beliefs. This track revolves around the understanding that religion has played a key role in the creation and implementation of the doctrine of discovery. The discussions will move through the history and engage with the present devastating long-term impacts to Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples alike. Participants will be encouraged to envision a future that rejects the principles of colonization and create strategies that can be implemented within their own communities.

Law: Harmony
This working group track will be directed by the conference conveners: Maya Vision, Techantit and TONATIERRA.  The sessions will be segmented into presentation from the three areas of the continent: South, Central and North.   Each region will address the impact of the Doctrine of Discovery upon their Indigenous Nations and territories, and how they have responded in exercise of the inherent Right of Self Determination as Indigenous Peoples, Equal to all other Peoples.  The impact of extractive mining, the criminalization of resistance, and the issue of International Borders of the colonizing states including domestic and international immigration policies of the government state are priority themes for this working group.

Environment: Pacha Mama
The success of any indoctrination process require a disassociation from reality.  The reality is that we are all children of Mother Earth, and Mother Earth is also a child of the cosmos, and the Cosmos is a Matter of Mystery.  Water and Land related, become watersheds and the Ocean which in reality there is only one ocean on this planet.  Air and Fire related become the atmosphere and energy systems at the planetary level, the drivers of climate.  This working group will address these inter-related natural systems from the perspective of the Indigenous Peoples on the front lines in defense of the Rights of Mother Earth, from the local-regional to the continental and global frames of reference.

Voices of Abya Yala

We have always been here, since time immemorial.  The dust of our ancestors travel with the wind into the sky and there collect the spirit of the water that becomes the rain, and we return time and again to fulfill our responsibilities and regenerate our nations of Mother Earth.  Yet even she, our Sacred Mother Earth was not always a Mother.  At one time, for a long, long time she was a maiden, and even before that she was simply a dream of creation.  Yet now, however, she has been mother to life on Earth for a long, long time.  She is no longer a young mother. She is now Abya Yala.  She is the Mother Earth who, under the shawl of the Rain of Time, is showing the first grey hairs of becoming a grandmother.

What shall we do to take care of her? How can we take care of her if we do not know who we are, in good relations as Nations of the Indigenous Peoples of Abya Yala.

[1] The Haudenosaunee are most often, and mistakenly, referred to as the “Iroquois” or “Six Nations Iroquois”.

For more information and outcomes/updates from the “Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery International Conference” please visit www.dismantlingdoctrineofdiscovery.org


Global Indigenous Women’s Caucus Probes Doctrine of Discovery’s Impact on Women

By Gale Courey Toensing May 9, 2012
Eve Reyes - Global Indigenous Women's Caucus
Gale Courey Toensing
Eve Reyes-Aguirre of Tonatierra Embassy of Indigenous People, Phoenix, Arizona, speaking at the Global Indigenous Women’s Caucus in New York on May 4.

NEW YORK, N.Y. – How does the brutality of a 500-plus-year-old trade agreement between competing Christian European countries impact contemporary indigenous women all over the world? Exploring that question and articulating the answer in a page-and-a-half document was the task the Global Indigenous Women’s Caucus set itself in preparation for the 11th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

The Global Indigenous Women’s Caucus (GIWC) met at the Church Center for the United Nations on Friday, May 4, for a daylong session on an agenda that included the Doctrine of Discovery, human rights, food and food sovereignty, and other items. The meeting was an organizational precursor to the Forum, which takes place this year from May 7 – 18. Around, 2,000 indigenous delegates from around the world are expected to attend the annual meeting.

The theme at this year’s forum is the Doctrine of Discovery – a principle of international law that developed in a series of 15th century papal bulls and 16th century charters by European monarchs. The Doctrine of Discovery was – and is – a racist philosophy that gave white Christian Europeans the green light to go forth and claim the lands and resources of non-Christian peoples and kill or enslave them – if other Christian Europeans had not already done so. The doctrine institutionalized the competition between European countries in their ever-expanding quest for colonies, resources and markets, and sanctioned the genocide of indigenous people in the “New World” and elsewhere.

The Doctrine is embedded in American Indian law through a series of the 19th century U.S. Supreme Court rulings beginning with Johnson v. McIntosh in 1823. In Johnson v. McIntosh the high court asserted that the title of land that has been “discovered” and “conquered” belongs entirely to the conqueror and the Indigenous Peoples have only the right to “occupy” the land. The ruling has been used to ethnically cleanse Indigenous Peoples from their homelands and expropriate huge amounts of their lands and resources, including mineral and water resources.

Two years ago, Tonya Gonnella Frichner (Onondaga), the former North American Representative to the forum, presented “A Preliminary Study on the Doctrine of Discovery,” which was a study undertaken to explore the underlying reason for the universal violations of Indigenous Peoples’ human rights. The study found that the Doctrine of Discovery, into an interpretative framework of dominance that became embedded and institutionalized in law and policy both in the United States and internationally. This year’s forum follows up on the preliminary study and takes a more global approach to the Doctrine.

Jessica Danforth (Mohawk), the executive director of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, reported on the findings from an earlier preparatory conference for the forum. “One of the things we constantly came up against is the need for there to be specific gendered impacts understood. We cannot look at the Doctrine of Discovery as something that happens in isolation to indigenous women, but I think it’s important to make a direct link and take it seriously,” Danforth said. Danforth read some suggested wording for the document that the Women’s Caucus would present to the forum, “The Doctrine of Discovery is premised on paternalist and patriarch beliefs that assume a superiority of men over women. In accordance with Article 22 of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we call on the Permanent Forum to ensure that these effects of sexism, misogyny, and violence against women and children are considered and addressed in the context of this Doctrine of Discovery,” Danforth read. Article 22 provides that special attention will be paid to the rights and special needs of indigenous elders, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities in implementing the Declaration. It also provides that “States shall take measures, in conjunction with Indigenous Peoples, to ensure that indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination.”

As a concrete example of a direct link to the Doctrine, Danforth cited the 1978 U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in Oliphant v. Suquamish that tribal courts do not have criminal jurisdiction over non-Indigenous Peoples. She also cited a recent Amnesty International report, A Maze of Injustice, which documents that more than one in three American Indian and Alaska Native women are raped as compared to one in five in the U.S. as a whole. The report directly linked the rape of indigenous women to the Doctrine of Discovery, calling it “a tool of conquest.”

Eve Reyes-Aguirre of the Tonatierra Embassy of Indigenous People in Phoenix reported on forums her organization had held in Arizona and presented for consideration a statement Tonatierra had given to United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People, James Anaya. The statement supports a “deep exploration of the manner in the doctrine of Christian discovery has been constructed, elaborated, applied, and extended in law, policy, socio-cultural practices, through both secular and religious practices, and to set the stage for its eradication and reversal as a fundamental element of colonialism and imperialism, with full and equal participation by Indigenous Peoples.” Tontieraa has also recommended that the Arizona State Department of Education integrate the U.N. Forum’s study on the Doctrine of Discovery into the social studies curriculum across all levels of educational services and trainings. Reyes-Aguirre also recommended that special attention be given to the impact of the Doctrine of Discovery on international trade agreements among the states such as the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Other women in the caucus pointed to the links between environmental contamination and environmental violence and its impact on indigenous children, women’s reproductive health and future generations; and the effects of migration on women and children.

Sandra Cramer of Australia, one of the chairwomen of the caucus, said that consideration must be given to the women from various countries who are absent. “There are a people from other parts of the world who cannot travel to the forum so everything we do always has to be on an international level because the same things happen to indigenous women in this world no matter where we live,” Cramer said. She reminded the attendees that “some of us do have [advantages] but there are some women who have nothing so we have to remember those people because they may not be a voice here so we have to be a voice for all of them.”

On Thursday, May 10, the Native Youth Sexual Health Network will host a side event called Discovery Is Toxic: Indigenous Women On the Front Lines of Environmental and Reproductive Justice. The roundtable discussion will include Erin Konsmo, Native Youth Sexual Health Network; Andrea Carmen, International Indian Treaty Council; Danika Littlechild, International Indian Treaty Council; Viola Waghiyi, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Danforth will moderate. The event will take place from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Museum of Tolerance New York City, 226 East 42nd Street, (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues) New York.

Read more:http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2012/05/09/global-indigenous-womens-caucus-probes-discovery-doctrines-impact-on-women-111765 http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2012/05/09/global-indigenous-womens-caucus-probes-discovery-doctrines-impact-on-women-111765#ixzz1wYi2aWX1

Proclamation of Indigenous Peoples and Nations gathered at Pascua Yaqui Pueblo, Arizona August 6th, 2011 for the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

We, representatives of Indigenous Tribal Nation Governments, Peoples, organizations and communities from Arizona, New Mexico, Sonora Mexico, Australia and California, gathered on the lands of the Pascua Yaqui Nation of Arizona on August 6th in honor of this year’s International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples, August 9th 2011.

We discussed strategies for the full implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other International Human Rights standards.   We also shared examples of the ongoing violations of our human rights in Arizona, throughout the US, in Mexico and around the world.   Nearly  8th months after the United States became the last country in the world to express its support for the UN Declaration,  we continue to experience violations of our Treaty rights,  cultural and spiritual rights, rights to our traditional lands,  water, food sovereignty and traditional economies,  contamination of our environment through mining and the export of banned pesticides from the US to Mexico and other countries, disproportionate rates of incarceration and denial of freedom of religion for Indigenous prisoners, destruction of our sacred sites and the imposition of colonial borders and racist immigration policies that target Indigenous Peoples in Arizona and throughout this continent.

We affirm article 43 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which states that “the rights recognized herein constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.”  We recognize that all of the human rights violations and threats that we continue to confront are also violations of the rights affirmed in the Declaration, which is now universally supported, but not implemented, by the States (countries) of the world.   We agree that full and unqualified implementation by the US and all other States is the challenge and the goal.  We will continue to hold them to their commitments and obligations in this regard.

On the 11th commemoration of the Day of the Worlds Indigenous Peoples we make the following affirmations and recommendations:

1)      We call upon the United States, Mexico, Australia and all other States and Nations to fully implement the UNDRIP and to abandon any attempts to qualify the inherent rights  it recognizes, including but not limited to the rights to free, prior and informed consent and  self-determination.

2)     We  affirm that UN Declaration does not distinguish between “recognized” and “unrecognized” Indigenous Peoples, or give the discretion to  States to discriminate in the implementation  of the rights it contains based on this or any other form of legal status; in fact it affirms non-discrimination as a core right and principle in a number of its provisions.

3)     We call upon and encourage Tribal Nation governments to endorse the UN Declaration and call upon all Indigenous Peoples, Nations, Tribes and organizations to use it, cite it, assert it, and insist on full compliance and implementation in all of our interactions with federal governments and all of their subsidiaries (states/provinces and local governments as well as corporations licensed under the laws of these governments).

4)     We call for the establishment of just and effective mechanisms and processes in the US and other States to ensure oversight and implementation of their human rights obligations, including the Nation-to-Nation Treaties and Agreements they concluded with Indigenous Peoples, and that these mechanisms and processes be created and implemented in full partnership with Indigenous Peoples.

5)     We affirm that we are Indigenous Peoples without borders.  We strongly condemn current State border and immigration policies which violate the rights affirmed in Article 36 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other international standards, and we call for a study by the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and a focused investigation by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to address these violations.  We also reaffirm our adamant rejection of AZ SB1070, HB 2281 and all other measures that promote racial profiling and cultural genocide.

6)     We support the call for regional hearings on the impacts of the Doctrine of Discovery to be held before the 11th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

7)     We endorse the work of the North-South Indigenous Network against Pesticides and call for a halt to all forms of toxic contamination impacting the health of Indigenous Peoples and the

full implementation of Article 29 of the UNDRIP.   We call upon the US to immediately halt production and export of pesticides that have been banned for use in the US.

8)     We call for, and insist upon as essential to our collective survival, the protection of our sacred sites, areas and places, as well as our traditional cultural knowledge in accordance with Articles 14, 25, 26, 31 and others in the UN Declaration; we express in particular our support for the Indigenous Nations working for the protection of the sacred of sites and areas presented at this gathering.  In addition we fully support Indigenous Peoples’ work to reclaim, restore and heal the sacred places which have been jeopardized by unwanted development, laws and policies, and the restoration and repatriation of our sacred objects and ancestral remains.

9)     We look forward to presenting the issues and concerns we have discussed during this gathering to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples during his upcoming US Country visit and Consultation on the Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the United States.  We offer our full support to his work in this regard.

10)  We thank the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona for their generous hospitality, the Yoemem Tekia Foundation for the traditional meal they provided, and the International Indian Treaty Council and the Indigenous Alliance Without Borders for their coordination of this important gathering.

11)  Finally, we express our continued solidarity and firm support for each other’s struggles and achievements.  As Indigenous Peoples, we commit to stand together, and to continue coalition-building between our Peoples, organizations and Nations.

We affirm our sacred inherent rights to live as who we are.   For our ancestors, our Nations and our future generations, our sacred Mother Earth and for all members of the human family we make this proclamation by consensus,

August 6th 2011, Pascua Yaqui Pueblo, Arizona


Mission Statement

To create and sustain a

Cultural Embassy

of  the

Indigenous Peoples

That will support local-global and holistic indigenous community development initiatives in education, culture, and economic development in accord with the principles of

Community Ecology


Self Determination.