The Doctrine of Discovery - Unmasking the Domination Code

October 2, 2024 - 7pm to 8pm

Documentary video by Sheldon Wolfchild and Steven Newcomb

Father Hennepin at St Anthony Falls
Sheldon Wolfchild
Steven Newcomb

This powerful documentary is by Dakota filmmaker and director Sheldon Wolfchild and producer Steven Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape). The film is based on Newcomb’s thirty years of research and his book Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery. It presents the little-known story: The first Christian people to locate lands inhabited by non-Christians (“infidels, heathens, and savages”) claimed the right to assert a right of domination to be in themselves.

On the basis of this religiously premised argument, the U.S. Supreme Court has defined the land title of the Indian nations as a “mere right of occupancy” subject to a right of domination on the part of the United States. The first “Christian people” that claimed “ultimate dominion,” said the Supreme Court, could grant away the soil while yet it was still in the possession of the “natives, who were heathens.”

Birgil Kills Straight, a Headman of the Oglala Lakota Nation, provides insight into the traditional wisdom and teachings of the Seven Laws of the Oglala Lakota. The documentary points out that the traditional teachings of original nations and peoples form an alternative to the dehumanizing domination system of Christendom.

Theologian Luis Rivera-Pagán points out in his book A Violent Evangelism: The Religious and Political Conquest of the Americas (1992), that an accurate history must account for the theological and religious justifications for claims of domination over the original nations and peoples. Rivera-Pagán talks about the devastating effects of “the absolute devaluation of one’s being,” or, in other words, dehumanization.

This is a public showing of the video as part of the 2024 Summer Lecture Series. Following the video we will have a discussion. This year the lectures will be held on Wednesday evenings at the Bath Freight Shed. There will be no recording of this event, but the video is available for rent or purchase on vimeo:

The lectures are free, but if you consider them valuable, please donate to Maine’s First Ship either in person or online. This helps us to provide future educational programs.