Conference | The Religious Origins of White Supremacy: Doctrine of Christian Discovery
December 8 @ 8:00 am – December 10 @ 5:00 pm UTC-8
In the 1823 US Supreme Court decision, Johnson v M’Intosh, Chief Justice John Marshall wrote,”…discovery gave title to government…[and] the sole right of acquiring the soil from the natives.” This decision underpins US property law. Marshall’s deliberate use of the word “discovery” is an intentional reference to 15th-century Catholic papal bulls, which stated that any Christian who “discovers” a land populated by non-Christians has superior title, or rights of ownership, over that land. In essence, Johnson codifies into US law the principle of Euro-Christian domination over Indigenous peoples. In the most devastating sense, the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (DoCD) legitimized exploitation, extraction, and enslavement globally and enshrined these practices as the basis of U.S. property law still cited today as recently as 2005 (in Sherrill v. Oneida) and 2020 (McGirt v. Oklahoma).
In Johnson’s 200th year, there is an urgent need for global recognition of the decision’s implications as reifying the DoCD and its exploitation of Indigenous peoples and their connection to land, regarded as a living being (Mother Earth in English.) This conference builds on the history of collaboration at Syracuse University with Indigenous communities across Central New York by expanding dissemination of the pernicious ideologies of DoCD and Johnson, leading to further repudiation of these ideologies and towards healing and repair.