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THE LIGHT DAWNS
~ Nita Pomeroy
For decades I have been wondering what is
wrong with my people. What is it about us
white, northern european people that has
caused us to circle the globe for the purpose
of dominating other people? Why have we
been so driven to ’discover’ all these ‘new’
lands and take all the resources and wealth
from the people who already lived there? Why do we see no people from other continents circumnavigating the globe ‘discovering’ new lands? I would look at maps of the world and there was not a place on the earth that we did not go and colonize, with the exception of Antarctica — and Europe. I would wonder and ponder why we made such efforts trying to find new places to live, new lands to despoil.
My best theory was that we were too cold. All that snow and ice, those long, cold winters with little light drove us in search of warmer climates, for less harsh living conditions. Yes, there was the mythology of people yearning to escape religious persecution, but surely there were european nations where they could have found refuge more easily, for less cost. And definitely with far less danger than crossing the Atlantic Ocean to some unknown place.
My horror grew as I took classes at university and discussions revealed the tremendously negative effects our relocation had on the environment in these new lands. This led to extremely negative impacts on the People already living there. For instance, deforestation in what we call New England led to climate changes. The habitat destruction and the increasing demand for more food, wild herds and flocks were decimated and an ocean once teaming with aquatic life was soon being over- fished. European animals imported by those who farmed demanded european crops causing more land to be cleared and more alien (and frequently invasive) species of plants to be grown. The People who had once saved our lives now found their lives threatened by our presence here in what became known as North America.
I often go on YouTube jags and watch some thread or other for hours. Sometimes days. The latest theme arose when I typed Steven Newcomb’s name in the search bar and came upon a thread about the Doctrine of Discovery. Now, I had heard of this before in a video which showed up on my fb page quite a few years ago, posted by one of my fb friends. I must admit, somewhat ashamedly, that I didn’t give much credence to the video – mostly because I couldn’t understand what she was saying. But the image of her reading and talking about this concept stuck with me. And here it was again! It took several viewings of the first string of videos before I began to get an idea of what the Doctrine of Discovery was and another several to begin understanding it.
Then, the light dawned. What began as collusion between the Portuguese and the Papacy soon was extended to the Spanish, then English, French, Germans, the Dutch. Their collusion was the agreement that if a People occupying a certain area of land were not Christian and did not fully utilize the land according to european practices, then they were less than human and could do no more than occupy the land. By agreeing between themselves not to make claims on lands already claimed and occupied by another christian nation, the costly effects of war among those nations were potentially avoided.
I continued to watch. I watched a lot of repeats and I watched as many new ones as I could find. My heart fell further and further. I felt shame, embarrassment and anger at what I was learning. I watched Steve Newcomb, Louise Mandell, Oren Lyons, Robert Miller, Walter Echo Hawk, Mark Charles, Jeannette Armstrong, et al. I watched segments of the Indigenous Peoples Forum on the Doctrine of Discovery at the Arizona Capitol. I found a link to that when I was watching videos from the International Seminar on the Doctrine of Discovery (Seminar), which was held at Thompson Rivers University (TRU). There were independently filmed videos and symposia videos, all in a semi-random non-sequential order, which meant there was lots of repetition. If, as they say, repetition is the mother of learning, then I am beginning to learn at least the basics of the Doctrine of Discovery.
In one video, Mr. Newcomb discussed the hidden messages or codes revealed in the very structure of the English language. In his talk “Our Original Free and Independent Existence as Nations and Peoples” given at the TRU Seminar in September 2012, he breaks down words from the English language to reveal hidden meanings deriving from their Latin roots. One example he used was the English word mortgage, a combination of mort and gage, respectively death and grip.
At the Indigenous Peoples Forum, Steven Newcomb quoted the following segment from one of the Papal Bulls which make up the Doctrine of Discovery: “…to invade, capture, vanquish and subdue all pagans, Saracens and other enemies of Christ, to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery and to take away all their possessions and property … and to convert the land…” (I believe it was from a Papal Bull issued in 1453.)
I decided to use Newcomb’s technique and look at the meanings of the words found in that brief segment within the Papal Bulls. I tried to limit the definitions to those which directly related to the interactions the Europeans had with the Indigenous People of Turtle Island. Where there were example sentences of the definitions, I tried to rewrite the sentence with respect to the european colonizers.
I took the list then copied all the definitions attached to each word in dictionary.com. Next, I read through each definition to determine if it were applicable contextually, deleting all definitions which did not fit. After that, I read the remainder of the definitions, replacing sample sentences with those that would demonstrate the definition with respect to the Doctrine of Discovery here in Turtle Island.
It was heart-stopping!
What was left lay before me in a devastating indictment of my culture and the belief system which crushed all others underneath its terrible greed and its consequent annihilation of millions of gentle and innocent People. I found myself mute for several months wondering how I could speak about this horror and devastation, which continues to this very day. It underlies our government’s legal system and contaminates all western governments, and more, today. (I have appended the list of words with their definitions. along with my personal and hopefully pertinent comments, at the end of this essay.)
In my thinking and observing and listening, I have noticed that Indigenous People seem very careful to honor anything agreed upon and then sealed by smoking sacred herbs, like tobacco. We europeans do not keep our word, our promises, neither historically nor in the presently. We are always waiting for a better, more lucrative deal. Historically, we have broken treaties for such things as more land, silver, gold. Now we break them for oil and other resources. All without thought for the short- or long-term consequences of our actions other than how a few people can benefit financially.
The Doctrine of Discovery is a contagion which was spoken into existence by popes and european kings and queens and which now perpetuates itself by feeding upon the basest among us. It first presents itself as innocuous or even benign, then, once established, shows itself as filthy, even gangrenous. Only excision can remove it.
But if we excise in hate and anger, then how are we different from those who are the problem? My 95-year-old mother will discuss current events and then say, “But that is not the reality I claim. I claim …, this is the reality I live in…” She then goes on to name exactly what might be considered the philosophical opposite of whatever negative incident we were discussing. The strength in what Mom says is that she names the cultural behaviors she wants to be ascendant, that creates her reality. From my white background, a biblical scripture leaps to mind: “As a man thinketh, so is he.”
Shawna Newcomb, daughter of Steven Newcomb, commented in the video “The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code” (July 17, 2018 - Eugene, Oregon) encouraging men to come more into their hearts and women to come more into their power. That we all become more balanced in our own selves. She shares and discusses how she has been becoming increasingly aware of the movement of the Spirit within her. And as she pays attention to spiritual guidance, the more guidance she receives. Shawna referred to Black Elk’s (Lakota) three-fold peace:
Peace connecting us with the universe;
Peace between two individuals; and
Peace between two or more nations.
In more detail: “The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells Wakan-Tanka , and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us. This is the real peace, and the others are but reflections of this. The second peace is that which is made between two individuals, and the third is that which is made between two nations. But above all you should understand that there can never be peace between nations until there is known that true peace, which, as I have often said, is within the souls of men.” (emphasis mine) (citation: https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Black_Elk#The_Sacred_Pipe_(1953) )
This, then, is both the answer for why my people have been so imperialistic and what we can do about the damage we have done. Our centers have been based on the convenings of popes, of royalty, of men and women. It has had no basis in what we have claimed as our religious beliefs, but on our lust and greed for wealth. We must reclaim true spirituality then move to build healthy, spirit-based relationships between other Peoples and Nations. And this would include our relationships with everything in, on and above the earth: plants, animals, water, soil, air…
“…To invade, capture, vanquish and subdue all pagans, Saracens and other enemies of Christ, to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery and to take away all their possessions and property … and to convert the land of the African Peoples…”
Papal Bull ca1453
- to enter forcefully as an enemy; go into with hostile intent: Germany invaded Poland in 1939.Or, Spain used Columbus to invade the Western Hemisphere.
- to enter like an enemy: Locusts invaded the fields.Or, europeans invaded Turtle Island.
- to enter as if to take possession:to invade a neighbor's home. Or, euro settlers invaded the homes and businesses of the Tsalagi.
- to enter and affect injuriously or destructively, as disease: viruses that invade the bloodstream. Or, boats arrived from Europe carrying not only settlers, but also such hitchhikers as diseases and viruses that invaded the bloodstreams of the inhabitants of Turtle Island.
- to intrude upon:to invade the privacy of a family. Or, euros invaded upon the sanctity of indigenous burial sites.
- to encroach or infringe upon:to invade the rights of citizens. Or, European settlers invaded the rights of Indigenous nations.
- to permeate:The smell of baking invades the house. Or, the stink accompanying the overloaded euro boats pervaded the fresh air of coastal communities of Indigenous people.
- to penetrate; spread into or over:The population boom has caused city dwellers to invade the suburbs. Or, the population explosion of euro settlers caused the subsequent invasion of euros into Indian Country.
And from the British Dictionary: (of plants, especially weeds) to become established in (a place to which they are not native): The European livestock and accompanying alien species of flora needed to feed both people and animals soon invaded the landscape of the western hemisphere.
- to take by force or stratagem; take prisoner; seize: The police captured the burglar.Or, the settlers captured the Indigenous people.
- to gain control of or exert influence over:an ad that captured our attention; a TV show that captured 30% of the prime-time Or, European settlers captured the resident occupants of Turtle Island.
- to take possession of, as in a game or contest: to capture a pawn in chess.Or, in the contest for free land, americans captured large swaths of land.
- to represent or record in lasting form: The movie succeeded in capturing the atmosphere of Berlin in the 1930s. Or, modern history books capture the idea of American exceptionalism.
- to conquer or subdue by superior force, as in battle. Europeans vanquished the indigenous people on Turtle Island.
- to defeat in any contest or conflict; be victorious over:vanquish one's opponent in an argument. Or, due to the Doctrine of Discovery’s papal authority, the europeans vanquished the free and independent nations of Turtle Island.
- to overcome or overpower:He vanquished all his fears. Or, the european’s firearms vanquished the Native populations.
- to conquer and bring into subjection:Rome subdued Gaul. Or, Europe subdued Turtle Island.
- to overpower by superior force; overcome. For example, European invaders used their guns to subdue the Indigenous People of Turtle Island.
- to bring under mental or emotional control, as by persuasion or intimidation; render submissive. For example, European dominators subdued The People by holding their Indigenous leaders captive and isolated.
- (no longer in technical use) one of a people or community observing a polytheistic religion, as the ancient Romans and Greeks. Interestingly enough, the usage of the word began in the century to century-and-a-half before Columbus sailed the “ocean blue.”
“Origin of pagan (1325 – 75): MiddleEnglish < MedievalLatin,LateLatinpāgānus‘worshiperof falsegods’,orig.‘civilian’ (i.e., not a soldier of Christ),Latin:‘peasant’,nounuse of pāgānus‘rural,civilian’,derivative of pāgus‘village,rural district’(akin to pangere ‘to fix, make fast’); see -an” (dictionary.com)
- a member of a religious, spiritual, or cultural community based on the worship of nature or the earth; a neopagan.
- Disparaging and Offensive.
(in historical contexts) a person who is not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim; a heathen.
an uncivilized or unenlightened person. Europeans considered Native People to be savage and merciless, as stated in the Declaration of Independence.
Disparaging and Offensive:
- relating to the worship or worshipers of any religion that is neither Christian, Jewish, nor Muslim.
- irreligious or hedonistic. Colonizers considered the Indigenous People pagan, or irreligious, because they were not christianized.
- (of a person) uncivilized or unenlightened.
- a person who feels hatred for, fosters harmful designs against, or engages in antagonistic activities against another; an adversary or opponent. European colonizers considered the Native People to be their enemies.
- an armed foe; an opposing military force:The army attacked the enemy at dawn.
- a hostile nation or state.
- a citizen of such a state.
- enemies,persons, nations, etc., that are hostile to one another:Let’s make up and stop being enemies. Interesting to think about this comment from the perspective of the Indigenous Nations who were time and again proffered yet another treaty promising them an end to colonial encroachment with a concomitant reduction in access to resources necessary to sustain their traditional ways.
- to bring down to a smaller extent, size, amount, number, etc.:to reduce.
- to bring down to a lower rank, dignity, etc.:a sergeant reduced to a corporal. Free and independent Nations reduced to Nations dependent on a colonizing government.
- to bring to a certain state, condition, arrangement, etc.to reduce glass to powder. Same as above.
- to bring under control or authority. After being forced onto reservations, Native People were under control of federally appointed agents.
- a human being, whether an adult or child:The table seats four persons.
- a human being as distinguished from an animal or a thing.
- Sociology. an individual human being, especially with reference to his or her social relationships and behavioral patterns as conditioned by the culture.
- Philosophy. a self-conscious or rational being.
- the actual self or individual personalityof a human being: You ought not to generalize, but to consider the person you are dealing with.
- Law. a human being (natural person)or a group of human beings, a corporation, a partnership, an estate, or other legal entity(artificial person or juristic person)recognized by law as having rights and duties.
I included the definitions for “Persons“ to highlight the fact that the authors and proponents of the Doctrine of Discovery and the Domination Code recognized that those they planned to subjugate and steal from were, indeed, fully human.
- continuing or enduring forever; everlasting.
- lasting an indefinitely long time: over 500 years
- continuing or continued without intermission or interruption; ceaseless: a perpetual stream of visitors all day.
- the condition of a slave; bondage.
- the keeping of slaves as a practice or institution.
- a state of subjection like that of a slave: He was kept in slavery by drugs. Indians were kept in slavery by illegal european immigrants.
- to turn to another or a particular use or purpose; divert from the original or intended use. In other words, take it from the original holders or users of the land and divest them of all property rights.