The Pope, the War Bonnet and the Real Meaning of the Doctrine of Discovery

The Pope in Edmonton, Alberta. Image: CTV.

Sigh … well number one I disagree with Willie Littlechild’s determination to give Pope Francis a Headress/Warbonnet … but I have to forgive him because I am of Creation.

Willie along with other delegates from various Native Nations throughout time have been part of efforts seeking something from the Vatican … whether it be an apology, rescinding of the Doctrine of Christian Discovery, returning of all of our ceremonial items … all are true and righteous asks.

It is extremely hard to understand the ramifications and the extent of the Doctrine of Christian Discovery. Proper context, understanding details, and nuances are of upmost critical importance … and the importance of this is why I’ve chosen to write this.

If you are able to decode the intricacies of it all you will understand that it is a system of domination … you will not come to this conclusion because you’ve formed an opinion but you will clearly see that this is what it identifies itself as … in my view it is the most significant system of domination that’s existed in the known history of man. The consequence of its function result in significant chaos to the wellbeing of our peoples and ways of life. We see this every day, individually and collectively playing out amongst our territories and within the function of our Nations.

JoDe Goudy urging the Pope to rescind the Doctrine of Discovery in 2016. Photo: Vatican.

This system doesn’t just live within the Vatican, it was utilized in the creation and formation of the United States … and Canada for that matter. It is the foundation of Federal Indian Law and is at the core justification of “plenary power” which is the ability to abrogate the articles of the Treaties through legislative acts of congress. It operates very effectively right now today as you read this within the function of the US and manifests in the political and legal relationship the US has with Native Nations. It lives within case law, legislation, and most effectively within the grants and contracts that for most manifest your Native Nations day to day function. Like all of us … we don’t know what we don’t know … but when you become aware of the extent of this system of domination I for one become quite concerned in the manner by which you seek awareness of it, and potential correction of it.

It is great to see a stronger awareness coming into the general understanding of what the Doctrine of Christian Discovery is and what it means. Yet I must advocate that this is the time to understand the context, detail, and nuance of the all of the issues at stake. The lack of understanding can result in even more chaos to our lands, peoples, and Ways of Life. It is the deception and trickery of the system to capitalize on a lack of understanding and it is my belief that one can do significant damage by acting without proper awareness. This time has the potential to become a significant opportunity not only lost but utilized to reinforce the system of domination even further against the Native Nations and our Ways of Life. If you wish to truly become aware, then please seek out all that you can in having a greater understanding of this all.

I disagree with Willie’s giving of the Warbonnet to Pope Francis … it is a form of judgment whether Willie knows it or not because it speaks for Native peoples and Nations without their consent. I must also disagree with the manner by which many are proclaiming an awareness about what the Doctrine of Christian Discovery is, what it means, and what they are potentially doing about it. It as well is a form of judgment and can have significant consequences for us all … it is what it is … and perhaps if it’s important enough you’ll seek out a better interpretation of what I’m trying to share and if not that’s ok … At the end of the day I have to forgive Willie, I have to forgive others, and I have to forgive myself … and simply tell you Atauwishamush … because I am of Creation.

JoDe Goudy is the former Chairman of the Yakama Nation.