On the eve of Pope Francis’s visit to Turtle Island later this month, a primer is in order, and the new documentary The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code is the perfect vehicle for examining how the views of ancient Christians continue to shape relationships between Indigenous Peoples and descendants of European settlers to this day.
Based on Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (Fulcrum Books), the 2008 book by legal scholar and Indian Country Today Media Network contributor Steven Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape), the hour-long film “examines the effects of an ancient doctrine traced to Vatican documents issued by popes in the 15th century, which purported to grant rights to claim dominion domination, in perpetuity, over non-Christian lands and their inhabitants,” the filmmakers said in a statement.
The pope will tour the traditional territories of the Piskataway and Lenape Nations, in Washington, D.C., New York, and Philadelphia from September 22 through 27.
The film, directed by Sheldon Wolfchild (Dakota), will be screened at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday September 17 for students and interested community members at the Fordham School of Law in an event that will include a “powerful question and answer session with the film producers about the continuing use and impact of the Doctrine of Discovery on Native nations and Indigenous Peoples.”
Renowned singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie narrates the documentary as it illustrates the ways in which the papal and royal claims of Christian domination infuse our daily lives today, especially through the use of precedents set by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The language of those precedents applies a Bible-premised claim of a right of discovery and domination,” said the producers, which include Newcomb.
Among the questions the producers will address with audience members after the film: “Why do the United States and other countries continue to claim a right of domination over the Original Native Nations? Why does the United States, on that basis, claim a right of ‘plenary power’ over those Nations?”
The screening and Q&A for The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code will take place at Fordham University School of Law, 150 West 62 Street, 3rd Floor, Room 3-04, New York, NY 10023. The event is being sponsored by Fordham University Communication & Media Studies Department and Professor Stephen Stoll of the Fordham University History Department.
See the trailer below, and if you like what you see, the film can be purchased at 38Plus2 Productions.