Editor’s Introduction: Understanding the Doctrine of Discovery
March 2017: Doctrine of Discovery (Volume 17 Issue 2)
Everybody knows that in the late 15th century Christopher Columbus arrived at what is now known as the Americas and that he proceeded to take possession of such lands on behalf of the Spanish crown. What is not widely known, however, are the legal and theological rationale with which Europeans justified the often violent (at times genocidal) conquest and colonization of these lands which had already been “discovered” and populated. By the time the Spanish and English peoples arrived at Turtle Island and Avia Yala (the original names of these lands) Native American nations and empires had already been in place for thousands of years. (The current scientific consensus is that First Peoples began arriving some 14000 years ago.) So, what logic led the new arrivals to think that they had the right to take away the land from these nations?