New England Yearly Meeting

A community of Quakers and Quaker meetings across New England.

Learn About the DoD - Steps toward Acknowledgment

The Age of Discovery

Claims of Christian dominion over Indigenous Peoples and their lands served European monarchies as a means of fending off competing monarchies and de-legitimizing the long-established autonomous Indigenous Peoples’ governments.

The Doctrine of Christian Discovery is the worldview that a certain group of people  (primarily Western Christendom), based on their religious identity, had moral sanction and the support of international law to invade and colonize the lands of non-Christian Peoples, to dominate them, take their possessions and resources and enslave and kill them.

The Doctrine of Discovery is used in particular by former British colonies, specifically, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America.

What is found in the Doctrine of Discovery?

  • Criteria for claiming land.
  • Transfer of the land.
  • Government by agent or proxy.
  • Coercion and subjugation of whole peoples.
  • Incorporation of a diminished and impermanent status into secular laws.
  • Double standards among international conventions.

Why should we care?

  • Life expectancy of 48-52 years
  • Unemployment from 45-75%
  • Incarceration rates higher than any other race or class High suicide
  • extreme Violence against Native Women
  • The Department of the Interior, charged with providing health care to Native Americans, funds it at half the rate the federal government funds care for federal prisoners
  •  in 1974 estimated that one in four American Indian women had been sterilized at IHS clinics without their consent.
  •  20 percent of Native American homes lacked full indoor plumbing
  • 40 percent of Native American housing was substandard.

Footprints of the Doctrine of Discovery

Elements of the Doctrine have rationalized heinous behaviors against Indigenous Peoples through the centuries. Forced removals such as the Trail of Tears, the seizure of natural resources, the destruction of traditional languages and cultures, the sterilization of Indian women and the disruption of Indigenous communities are examples of implementation of the concepts of “discovery” and “dominance.” The Vatican papal bulls of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries actively encouraged the subjugation of Indigenous Nations and the enslavement of African people. The secularization of the Doctrine in the United States and elsewhere perpetuated subjugation and its consequences (ese the Phips Proclamation, declaring "the Penobscot tribe of Indians to be Enemies, Rebells, and Traitors"). It is embedded in the US Declaration of Independence. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Canon of U.S. Federal Indian Law. (click on the aqua links for specific informaiton).

Effects of the DOCD Today

  • The development of policies without the full knowledge and prior informed consent of Indigenous Peoples.
  • Diminished protection of human rights.
  • The “New Jim Crow” and mass incarceration of people of color as modern slavery. (Thirteenth Amendment)
  • The diminished and impermanent status of Indigenous Peoples under the Doctrine of Discovery, is contrary to their right to sustain themselves in perpetuity as distinct peoples.
  • A concept of occupancy (“Indian title”) is inconsistent with the constitutional status of treaties. (Treaties are the highest law of the land, equal to the constitution.) Conflicts arising when Indigenous Peoples exercise self-determination bring them in conflict with governments and corporations that rely on the legal lineage of the Doctrine to assert claims on natural resources, such as coal, oil, uranium, natural gas and water.

Continue Learning:

In this TED talk: "When injustices have been enacted over generations, such as those by European and other settlers over the Native Peoples of (what we now call) Maine, how do those historically on the side of the oppressors begin to offer genuine and meaningful apology? Jamie Bissonette Lewey probes at the impact of such action, opening up the possibility for productive negotiation."


Many people are searching for a deeper spiritual engagement with the world, and feel a hunger unmet by the teachings and services of traditional religious institutions. Some have begun to take an interest in Native American spiritual practices, and one can easily find workshops and lectures offering Indian rituals and ceremonies to non-Indian people. However, many Native people, including highly respected religious elders, have condemned such "borrowing." They identify it as a form of cultural exploitation, gravely detrimental to the survival and well-being of Indigenous people.

Letter from Mashpee Coalition for Native Action to Friends General Conference


We begin to walk into the extremely important issue of residential Indian schools and Quaker involvement in Workshop II.  The issue of this legacy of the federal Indian Boarding School system, whose goal was total assimilation of Native Americans at the cost of stripping away Native culture, tradition, and language is difficult and we try to journey on this part of the path both deliberately and gently. The following is a brief introduction.

Residential School hearings

This is a 6 minute video that discusses the Hearings and Healing through an apology and the steps made by RMPC. Vanessa Nevin of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission talks about the RCMP's role escorting students from First Nation communities to residential schools.

The Mission of NABS is to work to ensure a meaningful and appropriate response from responsible agencies for those Native American individuals, families, and communities victimized by the United States’ federal policy of forced boarding school attendance and to secure redress from responsible institutions in order to support lasting and true community-directed healing.

CHILDREN REMAINS BURIED AT CARLISLE WILL RETURN HOME  -FARMINGTON – More than 100 years after their deaths, children buried on the campus of the former Carlisle Indian Industrial School are on their way home.

Between 1879 and 1918, more than 10,000 Native children were housed at the nation’s flagship Indian boarding school, built atop the ruins of a Civil War barracks and designed to “kill the Indian and save the man.” Nearly 200 of the children died at the school, most from diseases like tuberculosis or consumption.

Their bodies were never returned to their families, and the U.S. Army War College built its campus on top of Carlisle. Now, after years of contentious meetings with tribes, the Army has agreed to send the children home.


  • In the Courts of the Conqueror: The Ten Worst Indian Law Cases Ever Decided by Walter Echo-Hawk, Fulcrum Publishing, 2010
  • In the Light of Justice: The Rise of Human Rights in Native America and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by Walter Echo-Hawk, Fulcrum Publishing 2013

  • The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander, New Press, 2010

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New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

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