Sarah was the first person in her family to go to college and graduate school. She had a friend at church who began a job as an environmental advisor in South America, working with Indigenous people there who were impacted by gold mining. He felt uncomfortable with his work: he was extracting physical samples from the Indigenous people living there, but legally was not allowed to report any results back. He asked Sarah, who was trained in sociology, to come help him. During this process, an Indigenous elder told Sarah to either help, or to leave. Sarah described this interaction as one that has defined a large part of her life, and spurred her to continue building strong relationships with Indigenous peoples in South America and beyond.
Although the Doctrine of Discovery was created in 1823 as a legal framework for interpreting law, it has been an ongoing process that has defined realities for Indigenous peoples both historically and currently. As a doctrine created by the Catholic church, it has impacted Indigenous communities not only in the United States, but around the world. European countries wanted rules about who got to acquire a new territory, and the Doctrine of Discovery declared that the European state that first discovered a territory had a right to it—provided the land was “empty”, or not occupied by individuals who were ruled by a Christian monarch. In 2005, in City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York, a Supreme Court case in which Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion, it was ruled that the Oneida peoples could not buy back land that had historically been taken from them because they had lost their sovereign right at the time of “discovery”. When the Doctrine of Discovery was defined in US precedent, it was stated that Indigenous people were fairly and adequately compensated for their land because they had gained access to civilization and Christianity.
On Wednesday, November 16, 2022 from 7:00-8:30pm CST, Sarah and her colleague Katerina Gea will discuss what the Doctrine of Discovery is, what the coalition and national campaigns are doing to dismantle it, and what the role of the Christian church has been in creating, emboldening, and strengthening it. Considering that the church was a driving force in developing the Doctrine of Discovery, Sarah states that they have an obligation to help undo its lasting impacts as well. We hope to see you there as we gather together to find opportunities to get involved in the movement and imagine a new way forward. Whether you are inside or outside of the organized church, working together to dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery is peacebuilding. Come be a part of the solution either in-person in Minneapolis or virtually.
The Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery: The Land is Not Empty with Sarah Augustine event was held on Wednesday, November 16th, 2022, in person at Calvary Baptist Church in Minneapolis, and virtually.
Sarah Augustine, Executive Director of the national Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition and author of The Land is Not Empty: Following Jesus in Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery went beyond identifying the problems of racism, colonialism, hate and discrimination, and shared strategies to take a decolonized approach to anti-racism.
The event was joyfully sponsored by Calvary Baptist Church, Faith Mennonite Church, Showing Up for Racial Justice Faith, and Minnesota Peacebuilding Leadership Institute.
You can find the recording of the event here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxfxrnUDLH0