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  • Jennifer Z. Major

Columbus, The Papal Bull of 1452, and discovery. Or, the post in which the water gets hot.



noun (pl) -eries


the act, process, or an instance of discovering


a person, place, or thing that has been discovered

So, let's look at the word 'discovery'.

The word itself means to find something that was not known, such as a new planet, a new species, or a new continent.

Oh, wait. There weren't any "new" continents.

There were ones that weren't mapped yet, so I guess there's that.

So, yes, North America was already "settled" , "discovered", "inhabited" and "civilized".

Just not by Europeans.

And pah-lease, do not presume that "anglo" equates with "civilized". The assumption that skin tone reflects civility is completely moot as soon as we bring in the warring practices of the Romans, Celts or Vikings.

Now, some of you are thinking "Heyyyyy, Columbus so totally did discover America!!"

Nope, he did not. He found a few islands in the Caribbean. He never once set foot in what is now "America".

Leif Erikson did. The Phoenicians may have, and there are rumours that Chinese explorers did as well.

Columbus didn't make it further north than Central America.

Now, let's look at what he brought, and specifically, why Indigenous cultures were so decimated by this round of contact with European exploration. And it was not just North American Indigenous cultures. All across the world, people were to encounter a wee bit of paperwork through with colonists and explorers justified the 15th Century version of global annihilation.

"Ohh, them's kinda fightin' words, Jennifer."

You bet they are.

Columbus carried with him a piece of paper upon which it was believed were the words that God Himself spoke to open wide the door to world domination and the unending supply of cheap labour. It was called The Doctrine of Discovery.

It was written in a 1452 Papal Bull by Pope Nicholas V.

And to Indigenous cultures all over the world, it was the death knell of life as they knew it.

Here is an excerpt:

“…invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery, and to apply and appropriate to himself and his successors the kingdoms, dukedoms, counties, principalities, dominions, possessions, and goods, and to convert them to his and their use and profit”.

So, therein lies a very big, and very old problem. I bet the people who saw the ships coming had no idea what was in store.

The Spanish Conquistadors and European settlers saw land for the taking, and took it.

Newsflash: the slave trade in the New World began with Indigenous peoples, not Africans.

The Europeans saw wide open spaces and freedom and profit and an escape from all that was bad back home. So, they came, they saw, they conquered.

The only problem was??

They weren't invited.

Imaginine you're out with the family, doing the stuff families do and three cruise ships drop anchor and a few Zodiacs come ashore with armed soldiers in them. Then they pull out a piece of paper, read it in a language you've never heard and the next thing anyone knows is that you're farming your own fields at sword-point, your wife's been taken on board one of the ships, your kids are dead and God only knows what's next.

And no, "getting over it" is not an option.


Who says they should? Seriously, think about it.

WHO says the Indigenous peoples of this continent should get over it?

Those who did the conquering.

Over 500 years has passed, and yet, for many Indigenous people all over the world, their ancestor's early encounters with God still shades and shadows the way many of them view God today.

Who should change this?

Us. You and me.

One moment at a time.

One Christ-like moment at a time.


For further review, read what Mark Charles has to say at

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