What is the low-down on the Doctrine of Discovery as it affects Onkwehonwe on this continent?
Popular thought shows that this single document written by a less than enlightened pope gave explorers the exclusive right to rape, burn, and murder any Onkwehonwe on land uninhabited by Christians and then claim it as their own.
First, we need to stop thinking of the Spaniards as the first visitors seriously. Leif Ericcson visited 500 years prior and didn’t think he owned the place, and science suggests that some of them even fathered a few of our favourite Onkwehonwe redheads. Why did the Church paint them as “savages,” and they didn’t even wreck the place? Sound familiar?
Excited to see land?
The Doctrine was written in 1493, a year after Christopher Columbus landed on the Caribbean island. The local Onkwehonwe called Guanahani and renamed it “San Salvadore,” which translates to “Saint Saviour.” The name itself sounds like the man was lost, as he was just happy to see land again. I’ve done the same when I have been too proud to admit that I was lost and didn’t recognize the locals. If he was lost and thought he was in India like history books claim, Why would we not believe that the DOD doesn’t apply here? Simple… Because someone told us it does, and we believed the wrong set of facts!
By all accounts, Pope Alexander IV (AKA Rodrigo Borgia) from the House of Borgias was the recipient of the heavenly words found in the DOD, having them whispered in his ear shortly before May 4th, the year of their lord 1493. It was originally called “Inter Caetera” and gave exclusive rights to only the area covered by their lost brethren the year before, give or take a few thousand miles.
It established a demarcation line one hundred leagues west of the Azores and Cape Verde Islands and assigned Spain the exclusive right to acquire territorial possessions and trade in all lands west of that line.
The problem with the theory that the DOD is valid is the abundance of credit offered to Rodrigo in having the foresight to predict that his boatman knew where he was going, and he didn’t. Let us not be too hard on the guy; he had only been Pope for nine months before he declared this papal bull.
Granted, this pope was afforded special privileges such as having intimate partners, fathering children and even having access to fortunes. This was when men could buy the papal pulpit with popularity and close connections; however, this does not demonstrate “godliness” but rather a greediness.
Rodrigo is said to have made several self-serving papal bulls, including two that allow his son Cesare to accept responsibility for fathering his sister Lucrezia’s baby and another where he himself claims him. I am certainly not suggesting incest but rather creative political parenting.
More than anything, this questionable period and questionable papal bull leave one with yet another question…
“How can one make rules if he does not follow those set out for him by his Lord?” Is thou privileged?