⤓ Download a transcript of Episode 5 as a PDF // → Subscribe


We begin this episode with a land acknowledgement. Our hosts Prof. Philip P. Arnold and Sandy Bigtree (Mohawk Nation) begin by introducing our guest Tupac Enrique Acosta. He is a founding member of the community based Indigenous Peoples organization TONATIERRA in Phoenix, Arizona.

Tupac Enrique Acosta(Izkaloteka Mexica Azteca), TONATIERRA, One of the original conveners of the gathering of Tlahtokan Aztlan in 1984 in the O’otham Jeved Territories [Arizona] that sent a message to Pope John Paul II calling for the Vatican State to re-examine the fallacious principles of the Papal Bulls of Alexander VI purporting to grant “Domain” over the territories and Nations of Indigenous Peoples. This letter received a response via the Vatican Secretary of State in May 1984 from the office of the Bishop of Phoenix, which was incoherent, illogical, and paternalistic. Subsequently to 1984, TONATIERRA has been consistently advancing the DISMANTLING of the Doctrine of Discovery in a series of coordinated community campaigns led by Indigenous Peoples from the local-regional, continental-global contexts of geo-political reference, operating as Secretariat of the Continental Commission Abya Yala.

Show Notes

The conversation in this episode is a fast and engaging conversation best summarized in a list of keywords and concepts.

Keywords and Concepts

What is the Doctrine of Christian Discovery?

  • It is a psychological pathogen that has been infecting the world for over 500 years.

  • It produces the normalization of the criminal activity of genocide and land theft.

  • It infects and spreads throughout everything, effecting the way people relate to the world and to each other.

  • These tenets of domination continue to normalize crimes perpetrated against humanity and the Earth through institutional colonization, religion, extractive industries and genocide.

  • The DoCD has been created as a mythology of progress.

  • The DoCD is foundational to the hierarchical rule of patriarchy all over the world.

  • The Vatican legitimizes the institutionalization of the Church and Crown

Civilization and Colonization

The Doctrine of Discovery is represented in Martin Waldseemüller 1507 World Map entitled “Universalis Cosmographia Secundum” this map was the first recorded usage of the name “America” for Turtle Island. Waldseemüller used the name America because he thought that Amerigo Vespucci got here before Columbus. Some of the many questions raised by the map are:

  • What counts as a civilization?

  • What does it mean to be a human being who is a member of the original free nations of Mother Earth?

Part of the answer is that one is held under the dominance of the colonizer and the other is part of a free and interconnected existence.

Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery

  • Process
  • Takes time
  • Dismantling for the future generations
  • System of domination and alienation
  • Intellectual pathology that normalizes colonization and genocide and other crimes of humanity
  • The Doctrine of Discovery changes and morphs just as colonization changes. As a pathology it has strains and mutations.
  • White Supremacy as an agent of the Doctrine of Discovery is the agent of transmission.
  • How did the colonizers come to normalize that pathology w/in themselves?
    • They colonized and dehumanized themselves first before they colonized and dehumanized others.

Doctrine of Discovery Today

  • Normalized
  • Established
  • Habitually enacted
  • Pathology


  • The precepts of the Doctrine of Christian Discovery bring us to the brink of Terracide.
  • We are not the only children of Mother Earth, all beings regenerate from her body.
  • We are each defined by our relationship with the earth

United Nations

What is the alternative to the United Nations? One that is an ecosystem and part of the ecosystem of the planet. One that is a kinship system that includes the planet and animals.


Tracing the Doctrine of Discovery must go back further than the Papal Bulls of the 1400s, the Crusades take us back to the first moments of colonization and mercantilism and the development of capitalism. That is the beginning of the germinating seed of colonization and white supremacy.

What is Latin America?

Term originated in 1856. CF (Michel Gobat, The Invention of Latin America: A Transnational History of Anti-Imperialism, Democracy, and Race, The American Historical Review, Volume 118, Issue 5, December 2013, Pages 1345–1375, https://doi.org/10.1093/ahr/118.5.1345)

  • France wanted to create an empire in Mexico and connect with the Confederate States in the United States.

  • It is a term of empire

  • It is a term of colonization

  • Emperor Maximillian I of Mexico was defeated during the Battle of Cinco De Mayo and France was never again able to create a Latin American empire.

  • Term is a misnomer

  • Settler Colonial States dominate Original Free Nations—they are unable to define them.

  • States of domination do not value concepts of diversity.

Continental Commission of Aba Yala

In 2013 the Continental Commission of Aba Yala on Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery put forth five areas

Next Steps

  • Diagnose

  • Dismantle

  • Move Forward

  • Supersede it

500 Years of Resistance Sundown Regeneration Ceremony

Recently Tonatierra and LCM Community Council and many other Indigenous organizations held a ceremony. This ceremony happened simultaneous at sites throughout Turtle Island. It celebrated 5,113 years since the foundation of the ancient calendars and Indigenous survival after 500 years after colonization.

Globalized Doctrine of Christian Discovery

The Doctrine of Christian Discovery affects not only North America but also Central and South America. It differs from region to region and those differences must be considered. Settler-Colonial states have different formations and variations on the Doctrine of Christian Discovery.

  • Mexico
  • 1917 Constitution – Original Property to the State refers back to the Papal Bulls and Doctrine of Discovery
  • The Alexandrian Bulls/Las Bullas Alexandrias – ties Doctrine of Christian Discovery to the people whom issued the initial Papal Bulls
  • Central and South America more broadly
    • Ask each country how do they claim authority and title to the land? The settler colonial notion of territorial jurisdiction is rooted in the Doctrine of Christian Discovery
    • There’s a common structural hierarchy in place

“How can we unify to address the Doctrine of Christian Discovery?”

Doctrine of Christian Discovery normalizes the colonizer’s acts of dehumanization and domination.

Yaqui Nation

One of many contemporary examples of the urgency in addressing the Doctrine of Christian Discovery is the Yaqui Nation struggle for continuing sovereignty and land rights. The Yaqui nation is under threat from multi-national extractive industries which are taking their land and resources in order to accumulate unbridled profits.

Key Terms


  • Oren Lyons


  • Abya Yala

  • Turtle Island

  • Onondaga Lake

  • Mexico

  • Yaqui Nation



  • Music: Onondaga Social Dance songs performed by Orris Edwards and Regis Cook
  • Producers: Jordan Loewen-Colón and Adam DJ Brett
  • Show notes: Adam DJ Brett


Philip P. Arnold and Sandra Bigtree, “The Doctrine of Discovery in the context of Abya Yala with Tupac Enrique Acosta,” Mapping the Doctrine of Discovery (Podcast), October 10, 2022. https://podcast.doctrineofdiscovery.org/season1/episode-05.

This podcast is licensed under the Creative Commons by the Indigenous Values Initiative.
This site was created with Stackbit and is maintained by Adam DJ Brett.