An Original Nations’ Examination of “Freedom,” “Human” and “Human Rights”

FEATURED IMAGE: Birgil Kills Straight and Steve Newcomb of the Indigenous Law Institute,
spoke in the “Voices of the Dispossessed” panel on the 3 May 1493 Inter Caetera Papal bull
at the World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago, 1993.

Some Reflections for the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, Illinois, August 14-18, 2023

by Steven Newcomb (Shawnee/Lenape)
Indigenous Law Institute and Original Nations Advocates[1]

“Force is not truth, nor justice, but [force] is indispensable for the propagation of civilization”[2]


Our Global Predicament and the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions

This essay reveals why, from an Original Nations’ Perspective, the term “human,” in the Greco-Roman-Judeo-Christian sense, as traced to the Vatican papal bulls of the fifteenth century, means “living under domination,” which in turn changes our understanding of the term “freedom.” We will explain why the international framework of human rights is not designed to liberate Peoples from the claim of a right of domination.

Peoples who were labeled and categorized as “barbarous,” “infidel,” “heathen,” “pagan,” and “savage” by the ancient political powers of Western Christendom, are still being labeled and categorized in that manner by the present-day successors of those political powers. It’s a tradition held together by means of, for example, active Supreme Court precedents that have those labels and categories embedded in them.[3] Those labels and categories are rooted in the past and ongoing in the present.

Domination has been defined as “living under the arbitrary will of another, [or] having to conform one’s actions to a will external to one’s own.”[4] This essay will explain that the claim of a right of domination is a hidden dimension of the terms “barbarous” and “human.” We have identified this covert dimension by studying fifteenth century Vatican papal bulls that labeled our non-christian Peoples “barbarous” and called for the oppression (“deprimantur,” in Latin) of our Original Nations and Peoples.

In our view, the claim of a right of domination, and the behaviors that follow from that claim, are the main cause of the global problems we all face. This is why opposition to that claim is a potentially unifying theme for homo sapiens. Accordingly, we are prompted to ask: “To what extent is the theme of the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions, ‘A Call to Conscience: Defending Freedom and Human Rights’ focused on the fundamental and global issue of domination?” One possible answer is: “While it’s true that the Parliament’s theme is not focused on the term domination, the potential for such a focus is hidden in the background and deeper meaning of the terms ‘freedom,’ ‘human,’ and ‘human rights’ when examined from an Original Nations’ Perspective.”

An Original Nations’ Perspective

Our way of framing the context for this 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions is to think of it in terms of the contrast between our initial free existence as the Original Nations and Peoples of this continent, and the claim of a right of domination that centuries ago was brought by ship across the ocean from Western Christendom and imposed on Peoples and places that Christendom labeled as “barbarous” —an imposition which continues today. From this contrast, two points of view emerge: The first vantage point imagines our ancestors’ view-from-the-shore, seeing an invading ship moving toward them. The second vantage point is a view-from-the-ship, with the voyaging colonizers looking at our free and independent Native ancestors standing on shore.

The Domination Translator

At times I will be using a specific technique I’ve developed, which I call “the domination translator.” It’s quite simple. After a synonym for domination, such as the word “conquest”, I add the word “domination” in brackets. For example, “conquest [domination].” Or I may place “dominator” or “dominating” in brackets. I use this technique because none of us were ever taught to make a mental association between certain English and Latin words and domination. Using this technique helps the brain learn to make the connection.

The System of Domination

For tens of thousands of years, our Original Nation ancestors lived truly free here on this Turtle Island continent (“North America” ) with our own unique languages, values, and Sacred Responsibilities to care for our homelands. Our Ancestors used their free existence to evolve for us, their future generations, systems of Spiritual Understanding, Knowledge, and Wisdom. They were able to maintain a deep relationship with and an abiding appreciation for all Life, especially the Waters of Life, without which nothing can live. Our songs and ceremonies, our stories, our agricultural practices are all directed toward the accentuation and furtherance of Life.

However, centuries of unrestrained domination, which Christian Europeans call a “human” existence, have culminated in the waters of Mother Earth and our own bloodstreams being poisoned by carcinogenic and neurologically destructive toxic chemicals. The effect of this toxicity on the mind also needs to be taken into account. All this has happened as a result of a “human” economics of unbridled militarism, corporate gluttony, and greed.

The ecosystems of the planet have been horrifically impacted, while poverty and abuse have proliferated everywhere. The suffering caused by poverty and degradation is contrasted with a massive accumulation of wealth and power by the masters of the domination system. The wealthy and the powerful create the appearance of “green,” “healthy,” and “democratic” solutions, which are measures that merely reinforce the existing patterns of militarism, colonization, authoritarianism, and suppression.

During the past five centuries, the vast majority of the original old growth forests on this Turtle Island continent (“North America” ), which our ancestors nurtured, have been cut down, along with much of the rainforests to the South. Massive numbers of species have been wiped out. Genocide—the intention to destroy, in whole or in part, an entire nation or people—was committed against the Buffalo Nation, and against our Original Nations throughout this Western Hemisphere.

The “human” and “Christian” system of domination called “civilization,” which has been so destructive to our Original Nations and Peoples is also well-illustrated by the U.S. government detonating nuclear weapons in the homeland of the Western Shoshone Nation, thereby sending radioactivity, spewing out onto the Western Shoshone, the land, the air, and the water, and reaching some 46 states, Mexico, and Canada.[5] There was no regard by the scientific and military planners for the long-term and devastating consequences of the radiation. The proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the instability caused by competing domination systems vying for supremacy, has brought the planet closer than ever to the real prospect of a nuclear catastrophe.[6] Innumerable destructive effects of the claim of a right of domination can be recounted.

The 1893 Congress of Religions

This Ticket to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition displayed a Native American chief. Actual American Indians were “displayed to fairgoers as objects of anthropological inquiry.” PHOTO:TOM HOFFMAN

2023 marks one hundred thirty years since the convening of the Congress of Religions, which was a gathering of interfaith leaders in Chicago, during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. It was intended to celebrate 400 years since Columbus’s first voyage to “discover and conquer” [dominate] distant non-Christian lands in 1492. It is recorded that more than four thousand people attended the opening ceremony. Representatives from different faiths marched into the Hall of Columbus on September 11, 1893.

A replica of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia was cast for the Exposition. It was named the Columbian (for Columbus) Liberty Bell and stood seven feet high and weighed 13,000 pounds. It was engraved with wording from the Bible and hung up in the Court of Honor. During the grand opening of the Congress of Religions, the bell was rung 10 times to honor “Liberty of Thought” and ten world religions – Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Taoism, Confucianism, Jainism, and Zoroastrianisim.

The Original Nations and Peoples of this Turtle Island continent were not honored during the Columbian Exposition or the Congress of Religions, unless the image of an “Indian” chief wearing a warbonnet, which was printed on one of the Exposition entrance tickets, strikes you as an honoring.[7] Some Native people were displayed at the Exposition as an anthropological exhibit.[8] The U.S. government and various Christian denominations labeled our ancestors as “barbarous,” “pagans,” “heathens,” “infidels,” and “savages,” whose lands, languages, cultures, and spiritual traditions needed to be wrested away from them, so that they could receive the “blessings” and “progress” of a “human” Christian European “civilization” [domination].[9]

To achieve this “beneficent” objective, the children of our Original Nations and Peoples were taken away from their families and loved ones and subjected to horrific abuse in so-called “boarding schools” and “residential schools.”[10] They were taught the patterns of domination by, for example, being forcibly christianized and violently subjected for doing the most natural thing imaginable, speaking their own Original Nation language.[11] The death toll was high. At Sherman Indian School in Riverside, California, for instance, there are some 70 unmarked graves. There were more than 300 such “schools” in the United States, and several hundred in Canada as well. The children who died were alone without the comfort of any family member or loved ones.

The 1890 Massacre at Wounded Knee

Mass grave of Original Free Peoples at Wounded Knee, SD, murdered on 29 December 1890.

The 1893 Congress of Religions in Chicago was held at the end of the nineteenth century phase of the bloody era of U.S. Manifest Destiny, and just three years after “human and Christian civilization,” represented by some 500 US Army soldiers, and supported by a battery of four Hotchkiss mountain guns and other firearms, slaughtered hundreds of Lakota women, children, elderly, and men at the Wounded Knee Massacre of December 29, 1890. Some twenty of those soldiers were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, “the highest military decoration presented by the United States government to a member of its armed forces.”[12] Recipients “must have distinguished themselves at the risk of their own life above and beyond the call of duty in action against an enemy of the United States.”[13]

Dewey Beard, the grandfather of my Oglala Lakota friend and mentor Birgil Kills Straight, was a Wounded Knee Survivor. He recounted that the commanding U.S. officer gave his soldiers the order to fire upon the innocent people. When I told Oglala Lakota Medicine Man Richard Two Dogs this story a couple of years ago, he told me that his grandmother had also survived the massacre. His grandmother told him she saw the commanding U.S. officer give the order to commence firing immediately after a Catholic priest finished delivering the last rites, which is a Catholic ceremony that a priest may conduct for those awaiting execution. There is no indication the priest tried to use his influence to talk the commanding officer out of slaughtering Chief Bigfoot and his Miniconjou people.

A century after Wounded Knee, from 1986 to 1990, Birgil Kills Straight (Oglala Lakota), Alex White Plume (Oglala Lakota), and Eugenio White Hawk (Oglala Lakota), and many other people of the Oceti Sakowin (“Great Sioux Nation” ) organized an annual horseback ride some 300 miles long, through winter conditions periodically engulfed in blizzards. The Ride retraced the footsteps of Chief Bigfoot and his people to Wounded Knee. They did so as a ceremonial way of renewing the traditional Wiping of the Tears of the people and honoring the memory of the hundreds who were murdered by the U.S. Seventh Cavalry, while at the same time revitalizing the ceremonial life of the Oceti Sakowin.

Birgil and I Attended the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions

In 1993, Birgil and I traveled to Chicago to attend the first Parliament of the World’s Religions to be convened since the Congress of Religions was held in 1893. 1893 marked four centuries since Pope Alexander VI had issued a series of papal documents in 1493. The documents called for the propagation of the Christian empire and for the establishment of Christian domination wherever it did not yet exist.

Birgil and I were presenters on a panel titled “Voices of the Dispossessed.” We brought the issue of the Vatican papal bulls to the world stage by publicizing the patterns of oppression and subjugation found in the Vatican documents. We explained the link between the so-called doctrine of discovery, the Vatican documents, and the ideas and arguments that comprise U.S. federal Indian law, which is an anti-Indian area of “law.” 1993 was also the year that we wrote an open letter to then Pope John Paul II,[14] calling on him to formally revoke the Inter Caetera papal bull of May 4, 1493. We did this as a way of publicizing the connection between U.S. federal Indian law and the Vatican documents of the fifteenth century.

How Are We Able to Defend Our “Freedom” When We Are Living Under and Subject to the U.S. Claim of a Right of Domination?

As we reflect upon the above information, we—the Indigenous Law Institute and Original Nations Advocates—reaffirm our call upon Pope Francis and the Vatican (the Holy See) to formally revoke the Inter Caetera papal bull and other such fifteenth century Vatican documents. We call upon the U.S. Supreme Court to discontinue using the patterns of domination found in the Johnson v. McIntosh ruling of 1823[15] against our nations and peoples.

We are challenging the destructive conceptual patterns found in those papal documents and in U.S. case law, and the patterns of domination which continue to afflict our Indigenous Nations and Peoples, and the planet. We are also sharing insights obtained from decades of research into the terminology and patterning of the Domination Code.[16]

This year’s theme of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, “A Call to Conscience: Defending Freedom and Human Rights,” raises some questions:

  • Given that our Original Nations and Peoples have lived for more than two centuries under the U.S. government’s claim of a right of “Christian domination,” and given that the U.S. government is still asserting that claim, why would we say we are defending “freedom” under and subject to the U.S. claim of a right of domination?
  • What human rights framework is this year’s Parliament theme referencing?
  • Is there a specific provision of human rights that will give us the leverage we need to free ourselves from the U.S. claim of a right of Christian domination, or is the United States going to be able to maintain its claim forever?

When someone claims to be defending “freedom,” there is an unconscious assumption that we all share the same understanding of the word freedom: “being free.” But what kind of “freedom” are we talking about, relative to our Original Nations and Peoples, given that foreigners from across the ocean came here, labeled our ancestors “barbarous” and worked to deprive us of our original free existence by means of their invasive system of domination called “human civilization,” “democracy,” and “civil society” ?

Our nations and peoples have ended up with a type of “human freedom” under and subject to the control of the United States (and “Canada” ), and of other countries in other areas. This type of “freedom” does not include our original free existence because the invaders consider us to be the descendants of “barbarous” ancestors and thus rightfully subject to the ideas and arguments produced by their mental world of domination, ideas such as “conquest,” “ultimate dominion,” and the “plenary power” of Congress. To be “human” in this context is to live “free” under the arbitrary restrictions of a mentally imposed framework of domination.

The Vatican’s March 30th Statement About the Doctrine of Discovery and Human Rights Failed to Address the Claim of a Right of Domination[17]

After we helped generate several decades of publicity about the Catholic Church’s fifteenth century papal bulls, Pope Francis traveled to “Canada” in late July of 2022 as part of the Church’s work of evangelization.[18] Because the graves of Native children had been found on the grounds of former church-run and government-run “residential” “schools,” the pope also expressed contrition for the deaths of Native children at hundreds of those institutions (indoctrination centers).[19] His visit was called “penitential.”[20]

During the pope’s 2022 visit to Canada, some Indigenous peoples’ representatives held up banners challenging the “doctrine of discovery.”[21] Then, during his return flight to Rome, the pope told a Mohawk reporter that the horrific treatment of Indigenous peoples by the Canadian government was “genocide.”[22] The pontiff failed, however, to draw attention to the connection between what he was calling genocide and the system of domination which his predecessors set into motion on the planet by means of papal documents of the Holy See. Strangely, the pope also indicated to the reporter that he had no knowledge of the “doctrine of discovery.”

Then, suddenly, on March 30th 2023, the Vatican issued a statement on the doctrine of discovery. The statement claims that “The ‘doctrine of discovery’ is not part of the teachings of the Catholic Church.” It says that the Holy See “repudiates those concepts that fail to recognize the inherent human rights of indigenous [sic] peoples, including what has become known as the legal and political ‘doctrine of discovery’.” For years we’ve been discussing “the doctrine of domination” with a number of Vatican officials, including with Cardinal Anders Arborelius of Sweden, in an effort to make them aware of the theology of domination found in the papal bulls, patterns that continue to have real world destructive consequences today.

30 March 2023 Vatican Statement on the doctrine of discovery

Despite our efforts, the March 30th document never once mentions the word “domination.” The Vatican statement completely ignores that issue, even though the statement says it has been written as a response to discussions among Indigenous peoples’ representatives. This seems strange since we are among the Indigenous peoples’ advocates who have been discussing the “doctrine of discovery” with Vatican officials.

The Vatican officials did quote the titles of three of the papal documents, but they did not quote one word from the text of those papal bulls, such as the language from Dum Diversas of 1452. Pope Nicholas V provided an excellent example of the patterns of domination in that document when he called upon King Alfonso V of Portugal to travel to the Western coast of Africa, and “to invade, search out. capture, vanquish, and subdue, all Saracens, and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ … and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery, and take away all their possessions and property.”[23] The March 30th statement conveniently ignores such evidence, which we have been publicizing for decades.

The Vatican’s March 30th statement also ignores the intention, which is explicitly mentioned in two papal bull documents dated May 3rd and September 26th of 1493, to establish Christian domination wherever it did not yet exist. The Vatican’s statement does not explain that the system of domination the Holy See helped unleash on the planet is what makes people call out for “human rights.” The claim of a right of domination is what results in the problems that the international “human rights” framework is supposedly designed to resolve. However, the international human rights framework never acknowledges that domination is intrinsic to the meaning of the word “human.”

The Vatican is Responsible for Our Nations and Peoples Having Been Forced to Transition from Living Free to Living a “Human” Existence Under Christian Domination

The history of the colonization of California provides important evidence that the word “human” means “living under domination.” In 1930, for instance, the California Supreme Court issued a decision in the case City of San Diego v. Cuyamaca Water Company (209 Cal. Mar. 1930, p. 125). The court said that when the Spaniards arrived at Alta (“Upper” ) California, with the intention of establishing a Spanish Catholic mission system, the “Indian population” was, from the Spaniards’ viewpoint, living in “a state of barbarism.”

Interestingly, the term “barbarism” matches Pope Alexander VI’s expressed desire in the 1493 papal bulls to “reduce” the “barbarous nations” to the “Catholic faith and Christian religion.”[24] A system of Christian domination could not be established in any non-Christian place until the original Native peoples were deprived of their free existence and/or removed from the land.

In the Spanish language, the Catholic missions, such as those established in Alta (Upper) California in 1769, were called reducciones (“reductions” in English). This process of reduction is designed to cause a transition from one capacity, quality, or quantity to a “diminished” or smaller capacity, quality, or quantity. A reduction can also be thought of in terms of moving or pushing something downward from a starting height to a lower level, which is the metaphorical image of a motion that causes Free Nations and Peoples to be forced down and under a system of oppression.

The imagery of reduction was utilized by Chief Justice John Marshall in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Johnson & Graham’s Lessee v. McIntosh 21 U.S. (8 Wheat.) 543 (1823). Marshall said of the “Indians”: “Their rights to complete sovereignty, as independent nations, were necessarily diminished by the original fundamental principle that, discovery gave title to those who made it [the discovery].”[25] (emphasis added) Notice how Marshall is claiming that the colonizers are original and fundamental to this continent. In fact, they are neither, which is why we emphasize that we are the Original Nations and Peoples who were already living on this and other continents when the invaders arrived on their ships.

The Mission of the Mission System

Two Spanish Catholic colonizers, Franciscan Friar Junipero Serra, and Spanish military officer Gaspar de Portola founded the San Diego Mission in the Kumeyaay Nation Territory in 1769, to begin building “missions” to the north. They intended for the Indians in Alta California to be “reduced” downward from the “height,” so to speak, of their original free and independent existence, which the invaders called “barbarous,” to a resulting unfree existence called “human” under and subject to the supposed Spanish Catholic’s claim of a “right” of domination.

Together, Spanish military officer Gaspar de Portolá and Franciscan Friar Junipero Serra founded the San Diego Mission.

In a 1995 essay,[26] Gary Caldwell says “it was Serra’s task to implement the reducción (reduction) type of mission.” Caldwell then quotes Lenape scholar Jack Forbes, as saying that a reduction mission “was not erected in an already existing pueblo with sufficient population to support a church, but was utilized as a device for gathering together (congregating) natives who were dispersed in small villages,’ and for ‘reducing’ them from the ‘free,’ ‘undisciplined’ way of life to that of a disciplined subject of Spain.”[27]

Gary Caldwell lucidly explains how the Spanish Crown had enlisted the Franciscans to assist the Spanish military project to protect Alta California from possible Russian claims to that same area:

The Russians were coming, expanding southward out of the Gulf of Alaska with their Aleut hunters in search of the prized sea otter. The strategic plan to meet this threat was crafted by the vainglorious and unstable José de Galvez and approved by [King] Carlos III. It called for an expedition northward which would secure by occupation this remote province of Spain’s unguarded northwestern frontier. To that end Father Serra and his Franciscans were enlisted in direct support of this military move on the international chess board. Saint Francis [of Assisi] had been turned on his head. And so it had been from the initial organization of the expedition under [Gaspar de] Portolá in Baja California. It was obvious the Franciscans were going to play much more than a religious role when it came to the native inhabitants of Alta California.[28]

Caldwell notes Charles Chapman’s cynical comment about “the priests heading north.” For the Franciscan priests, if the individual Indian’s “soul were to be saved and his intelligence quickened . . . his body should first be enslaved [domination].”[29] To this, we accurately add, they should first be enslaved [dominated] as part of the process of being made “human” living under Christendom’s claim of a right of domination.

Is it Possible to Defend a Freedom You’ve Been Deprived of?

Let us now examine more specifically how the invading Spanish Catholic colonizers forced the Native Peoples into a reality of domination called “human.” Because of the Spanish Catholic invasion, Native Nations and Peoples were working to “defend their freedom,” meaning their original free existence, from the Catholic Church’s and the Spanish crown’s claim of a right of domination. The framework for this was created by the Spanish monarchy’s assumed right of domination (“dominium” ) over the Native Nations and their lands.[30] This was applied to any newly identified non-Christian place on the basis of the papal bulls of domination. After the Original Nations and Peoples had been deprived of their free existence, and forced to live a “human” existence under domination, how much of their original freedom was remaining for them to defend?

To begin creating a framework of domination in a newly located non-Christian area, a ceremony was conducted which symbolically claimed to “convert” the lands of the “barbarous nations” into “Spanish crown land.”[31] Additionally, the Native peoples were made to undergo Christian baptism and receive the imposition of a Christian name. The Christian name was a metaphorical carrier (metonymy) of the Christian European system of domination called “a human existence,” and “Spanish civilization.”[32]

Next, the “barbarous” Indians were forced to help build a brutal and deadly “chain” of mission structures that was used for containing and controlling them, and for securing control of the land for the Spanish crown. I use the word “deadly” based on historian David Stannard’s assessment in American Holocaust (1992)[33] that “the missions were furnaces of death that sustained their Indian population levels for as long as they did only by driving more and more natives into their confines to compensate for the huge numbers who were being killed once they got there.”[34] He continues:

This was a pattern that held throughout California and on out across the southwest. Thus, for example, one survey of life and death in an early Arizona mission has turned up statistics showing that at one time an astonishing 93 percent of the children born within its walls died before reaching the age of ten—and yet the mission’s total population did not drastically decline.

There were various ways in which the mission Indians died. The most common causes were the European introduced diseases—which spread like wildfire in such cramped quarters—and malnutrition. The personal living space for Indians in the missions averaged about seven feet by two feet per person for unmarried captives, who were locked at night into sex-segregated common rooms that contained a single open pit for a toilet.[35]

And, as one example of the views of a Catholic Church official, what did Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles have to say about this historical record of suffering, disease, and death to force the Indians to transition into an existence under domination called “human.” Gomez claimed that Serra was “a pioneer of human rights and development in the Americas.”[36] It would have been more accurate if he had said that Serra “was a pioneer of human [dominated] rights under domination” .

Referencing Gomez, in 2015 Catholic News Agency stated, “Not only did Bl. Junipero Serra offer an important model to follow for the eighteenth-century missionaries, but he also continues to pave the way for the new era of cultural encounter.”[37] Archbishop Gomez, without a sense of irony, says the current generation “has much to learn from Padre Serra in the continental mission of the new evangelization.”[38]

Being Whipped and Goaded into Worshipping the “God” of the “Humans”

For the Franciscan missionaries, the temporal (physical) and spiritual “conquest” [domination] of the Native peoples was a taken for granted objective. Eyewitness Thomas Jefferson Farnham explained that the Indians’ attendance at the mission church was mandatory.[39] Once inside the church, the men and women were separated by a wide aisle. He described the threatening tactics used against the Native people in the mission church to make them comply with the dictates of a “human” existence under a joint church (priests)-state (soldiers) system of domination:

In this aisle are stationed men with whips and goads to enforce order and silence, and keep them [the Native people] in a kneeling posture. By this arrangement, the untamed and vicious [resistant ones] are generally made willing to comply with the forms of the service. In addition to these restraints, a guard of soldiers with fixed bayonets occupies one end of the church, who may suppress by their more powerful weapons any strong demonstration against this comfortable mode of worshipping God.[40]

Looking back on such examples of mission history, Archbishop Gomez claims “We cannot judge eighteenth century attitudes and behavior by 21st century standards.”[41] “But the demands of Gospel love are the same in every age,” he continues.[42] Gomez does not entertain the possibility that the horrific mission conditions of that time are correctly judged in our time consistent with the eighteenth-century views of the Native Peoples themselves who were being whipped, goaded, terrorized, and killed on a mass scale in the name of “Gospel love,” and “God’s plan of salvation,” and that form of domination euphemistically called “civilization.”

La Conquistadora (the Female Dominator)

Archbishop Gomez says of Serra, “His story reminds us of God’s plan of salvation, the Gospel was first preached in this country by Spanish missionaries from Mexico, under the sign of the Virgin Guadalupe, the bright star of America’s first evangelization.”[43] “And let us ask Our Lady Guadalupe,” he adds, “to help us to continue her work of America’s first missionaries—in offering Jesus Christ to every man and woman and promoting justice and human dignity.” He does not admit that, in keeping with the goal of the “spiritual conquest” of the “Indians”, a Spanish name for the Virgin Mary was “La Conquistadora” (a female Conqueror, and thus Dominator).[44]

Civilization as Domination

Various tactics were used as a means of forcing Original Nations and Peoples to transition from their traditional free way of life to a “civilized” and “human” way of life, subject to the Spaniards’ claim of a right of Christian domination. This matches a definition of the word “civilization” found in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (1996), “the forcing of a cultural pattern on a population to which it is foreign.” (emphasis added) It also coincides with a statement made by Manuel Serrano y Sanz in his book Origenes de Dominacion Espanola en America, (“Origins of Spanish Domination in America” ) published in 1918.

“Force is not truth,” said Serrano y Sanz, “nor justice, but [force]is indispensable for the propagation of civilization . . .” His statement is aligned with the language of the papal bull of May 4, 1493, where Pope Alexander VI calls for the “propagation of the Christian empire,” “imperii Christiani propagationem.” In other words, the bloody, destructive, and deadly violence that was inflicted on “infidel” nations and peoples in “the Americas,” was indispensable for spreading violent Christian evangelism, and for planting (“propagating” ) that form of domination called “human,” “Christian,” and “civilization.”

Lewis Mumford, in The Myth of the Machine: The Pentagon of Power (1970), points out that the explorations of “Western man” were focused on whatever “aspect of nature” “could be brought under human domination.” (p. 3) Two inventions that helped facilitate this process were the magnetic compass, to figure out where they were going, and gunpowder to assist them in using lethal force once they got there. Then, using synonyms for domination Mumford writes about “the equipment that made these conquests and exploitations and enslavements possible—the armor, the crossbows, muskets and cannon—these new technical facilities” which “gave the Europeans who commanded them, though vastly outnumbered, the power to overcome the aborigines: their [the Christian Europeans’] grim audacity and their utter ruthlessness were not only supported but magnified by their superior weapons.” “What is more,” he continues, “the easy successes this achieved re-enforced the new power complex [of human domination] that was coming into existence.” (p. 7)

“The State” of Domination

Once the Christian European dominators had deprived our ancestors of their free existence, the only possible “freedom” for our Original Nations and Peoples to experience was whatever degree of latitude they could achieve under and subject to the resulting “human” system of domination being forcibly imposed by the Spanish Catholic imperialist, or by the United States in its political context. If the Native Peoples had been told back then they were in need of “human rights” it would have been because of the torment, misery, and death they were experiencing as a result of being forced to live a “human” existence under the domination of the Catholic Church and “the State.” German sociologist Max Weber pointed out a century ago that “the State” is accurately defined as “a relation of men dominating men,…. If the state is to exist, the dominated [e.g., the Original Nations and Peoples] must obey  the authority claimed by the powers that be.”[45]

A “Human” Existence Lived Under Domination Creates the Need for “Human Rights”

If the positive connotation of the terms “human” and “civil society” is warranted, how is it that for centuries Indigenous (dominated) peoples have been deprived of their freedom, and subjected to slavery, torture, and forced labor as a means of driving them into a “human” and “civil” order?

And once the freedom of the Native peoples had been successfully destroyed as a result of them being subjected to the brutal dominion of a “civil” and “mission” existence, they were well on their way to becoming “human” under and subject to Christian European domination.

At that point how much of their pre-invasion pre-domination freedom was remaining for them to have defended by means of the idea “human rights,” if such a framework had been existing back then? Being compelled to live a “human” life under Christian European domination is what caused them to need “human rights” in the first place.

The Context of the United Nations

Founded in 1945, the United Nations (UN) defines “human rights” as “rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status.”[46] Human rights are said to include “the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.”[47] How interesting that the destructive acts perpetrated against the Native peoples to rob them of their freedom and make them “human”, are the actions said to be disallowed according to the international framework of “human rights.”

According to the UN, “International human rights law lays down the obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.”[48] We are also told that the “comprehensive body of human rights law” is “a universal and internationally protected code to which all nations can subscribe and all people [can] aspire.”[49]

Given that “aspire” means “to desire a lofty object”, this implies that all people can desire to one day obtain the goal and protected code of human rights. But the UN also tells us that human rights are “inherent”, which means “innate” . It stands to reason that if these rights are innate within us, then there is no need for us to desire them because we already have them. This must mean that such “rights” are merely ideational (i.e., existing on the level of ideas) and that the mere aspirational idea of such rights provides us with no actual ability to end the patterns of domination that are causing our suffering and discontent.

The “Human Rights” Framework Provides Us with No Means of Liberating Our Nations and Peoples from the Claim of a Right of Domination

The language of the Vatican papal bulls, and the above depiction of the Spanish Catholic mission system in California, is but one way to powerfully illustrate how, over the course of centuries, a “human” and “civil” system of domination has been extended all over our planet, by the Catholic Church and the various “States of Christendom.” Today, people throughout the world are seeking relief from the pain, misery, and suffering they are experiencing as a result of being forced to live subject to a “human” system of domination called a “civil society” and “the State.” And the international framework of human rights, unfortunately, does not provide any means of being liberated from this predicament.

Innumerable abuses result from living a way of life under the claim of a right of domination. Yet, if we point this out, we are told dismissively, “well, that’s just human nature.” Those very abuses are what eventually resulted in the development of a framework of “human rights” that operates in a limited manner under “the rule” [domination] of “the State.” When the United Nations was founded in 1945, even though its membership was comprised of “States,” it could not be named “the United States” because the “United States of America” already had that name. This evidently caused the founders of the UN system to revert to the word “nations” when naming that international system.

In any case, the United Nations is an organization made up of States of domination. And the rules of that system have put everyone on notice that no one is permitted to challenge “the State’s” ultimate control within its claimed geopolitical boundaries. This is emphasized in the human rights document called The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007). In the text below from Article 46 of the Declaration, we use the domination translator to emphasize concepts of domination found therein:

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State [of domination], people, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act contrary to the Charter of the United Nations [i.e., United States] or construed as authorizing or encouraging any action which would dismember or impair, totally or in part, the territorial integrity [domination] or political unity of sovereign [dominating] and independent States [of domination].[50]

No one, in other words, is allowed to call into question the domination system termed “civil society,” “democracy,” and “the State.” Accordingly, the international framework of human rights regards every State of domination as a permanent and unquestionable given. We as Indigenous people and peoples are able to use international human rights to aspire to someday alleviate the suffering we experience as a result of the domination system, but from the perspective of the UN, no one is allowed to challenge the premise of the UN system, which is “the State’s” claim of a right of domination over everyone and everything within boundaries claimed geopolitically by a given State of domination.

Challenging the Claim of a Right of Domination

An existing global system of domination, which has been used to strip Indigenous Nations and Peoples of their original free existence, is the context for the Parliament’s phrase “defending freedom and human rights.” One potential course of action is for us to put forward the argument that there is no such thing as a right of domination. Making that argument, however, does not change the fact that the present day and ongoing system of ideas and arguments called U.S. federal Indian law (a.k.a anti-Indian law) and policy has been constructed, and continues to operate, on the basis of the U.S. claim of a right of domination over our original Native Nations and Peoples. The Felix Cohen Handbook of Federal Indian Law, for example, pointedly states: “Conquest [domination] renders the tribes subject to the legislative power [domination] of the United States.”[51]

The question remains: How do we get free from the U.S. claim of a right of domination by getting U.S. government officials to stop claiming a right of domination over our original Native Nations and Peoples? And, given that the international “human rights” framework does not seem to include the leverage necessary to compel U.S. government officials to stop claiming a right of domination over our Original Nations and Peoples, how can that international framework be a means of liberating ourselves from that U.S. government’s invalid claim? Moreover, how can there be peace, harmony, and respect for one another and Mother Earth if the global domination system continues unabated?

Given that the “State” systems of the planet have been organized around the presumption that every “State” has a right of domination over “its” “citizens,” how are the people who are defined as “citizens” going to be able to respond when the algorithms of the internet, including the “transhuman” Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems, have been encoded with an assumed right of domination over them? Will every means of escape have been permanently preempted?

Here are some additional questions: Will robots and AI systems end up with an unquestioned right to exert a right of domination over the “humans” who have built those systems? Will every human being on the planet one day be compelled, based on an AI theology, to live under and subject to an AI system of domination? Will an Era of robots and Artificial Intelligence render obsolete any discussion of a fundamental “human right” to live free from an AI system of domination?

Will the Chief Justice of an AI Tribunal, which is modeled after Chief Justice John Marshall and the U.S. Supreme Court, someday say of the humans: “Their rights to live free from an AI System have been necessarily diminished by the original fundamental principle that the discovery of AI gave a title of ultimate dominion to the Central AI System.” Are we hurtling toward an AI form of totalitarianism from which there will be no means of escape? Is the so-called “great reset” simply a “reset” and intensification of the global system of domination?


There is something that everyone who believes in a free existence should have been calling into question long before now, but without a View-from-the-Shore perspective, it was difficult to understand why we should be doing so. I’m talking about calling into question the Greco-Roman-Judeo-Christian category “human.” If you hear someone say, “You can’t treat me like that, I’m a human being,” the person making that comment assumes that being defined as “human” is a solution to the abuse they are suffering. But what if the category “human” contains an unnoticed hidden meaning, specifically, “living under domination.” And what if that hidden meaning reveals the actual cause of the vast majority of the abuse that people suffer everywhere on Mother Earth?

Our View-from-the-Shore perspective as Original Nations and Peoples provides us with an awareness of our pre-invasion free existence. This awareness enables us to see that being defined as “human” in a Greco-Roman-Judeo-Christian” sense, means being born into an unfree existence, which means being made to live under and subject to a taken-for-granted system of domination. This predicament eventually results in the need and demand for “human” rights for those who are suffering from being compelled to live under the claim of a right of domination. If a people can be deceived into passionately demanding human rights under domination, without noticing they are doing so, they will end up mentally captured in a most insidious manner.

The result is an existential dilemma called the double bind. A double bind means, “you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.” Someone might say, “I am being dominated and treated horribly because I am not being regarded as human,” or, that person might say, “I am being dominated and treated horribly because I am being regarded as human living under and subject to the domination of a civil [domination] society.” You’re damned if you are defined as “human” and damned if you aren’t. The bind is there no matter where you turn.

Our View-from-the-Shore perspective has enabled us to gain these insights from our heightened awareness of our pre-invasion and pre-domination free existence as the Original Nations and Peoples of this continent. We need to keep gaining insights and sharing them with others, while continuously challenging the claim of a right of domination. We need to maintain our spiritual strength and our identity as rightfully free Original Nations and Peoples because the dominationists (aka, “globalists” ) are working 24/7/365, with their technological prowess, to forever end even the very possibility of conceiving of a way of life lived free from their imposed “Greco-Roman-Judeo-Christian” system and, soon to be Artificial Intelligence, system of domination. Continuous new knowledge and ever-insightful consciousness is a central part of the liberating solutions we need to build together.

We have a sacred responsibility to place the long-term well-being of our children and future generations here on Mother Earth ahead of any technological dystopia. Now is the time for the people of good hearts and minds to come together and live out our spiritual values by accurately naming the domination system so we can end it.  We need to publicize the claim of a right of domination, by pointing it out wherever it exists. We need to declare the claim of a right of domination to be invalid.

Protocol of Domination Vocabulary

We need thoughts, behaviors, and language of Reverence that will enable us to create the social and economic patterns by means of which we can thrive together in perpetuity as free beings, meaning free from domination. In the meantime, we need to learn how to listen skillfully, and develop the receptivity,  patience, and discipline to establish and maintain strong relationships by communicating effectively so we can work together toward these positive outcomes.



[1] Indigenous Law Institute. See also,

[2] Manuel Serrano y Sanz, The Origins of Spanish Domination in America, 1918.

[3] Ancient labels and categories that have been institutionalized in the symbols, architecture, and linguistic structures of empires and states remain active and ongoing in their present-day systems of meaning.

[4] From the Preface to Political Exclusion and Domination, in Nomos XLVI, ed., by Melissa S. Williams and Stephen Macedo, Yearbook for the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy, New York: New York University Press, 2005.

[5] Nuclear fallout from Manhattan Project’s Trinity test reached 46 states, new study finds, Adam Schrader, United Press International, 20 July 2023

[6] For a deep reflection on all this see, Trinity’s Shadow, Edward Curtin, Behind the Curtain, 29 July 2023

[7] Your Ticket to the 1893 Columbian Exposition, Atlas Obscura, 13 July 2015

[8] Fair Representation? American Indians and the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition, David R.M. Beck, World History Connected, Vol. 13, Issue 3. October 2016

[9] Johnson v. McIntosh 21 U.S. (8 Wheat.) 543 (1823), 573 “The potentates of the old world found no difficulty in convincing themselves that they made ample compensation to the inhabitants of the new by bestowing on them civilization and Christianity in exchange for unlimited independence [for the Christian Europeans].”

[10] Tamara Starblanket, Suffer the Little Children: Genocide, Indigenous Peoples, and the Canadian State (2018).

[11] Ibid.

[12] List of Medal of Honor recipients for the Wounded Knee Massacre, Military Wiki

[13] Ibid.

[14] Letter to Pope John Paul II; See “Revoke the Inter Cetera Bull,” Valerie Taliman, Turtle Quarterly, Fall-Winter 1994, p. 7-8.

[15] 21 U.S. (8 Wheat.) 543 (1823) at 574, “[T]hey asserted the ultimate dominion [domination] to be in themselves, and claimed and exercised, as a consequence of this ultimate dominion, a power to grant the soil while yet in possession of the natives.”

[16] See Steven T. Newcomb, Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Discovery (2008), and the documentary movie “The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code,” 2015. Evidence of the Global System of Domination is found in the text of the May 3rd papal bull titled Inter Caetera. It refers, for example, to “insulas” (islands) and “terras firmas” (firm lands), “remotis et incognitas” (remote and unknown), “que non essent sub actuali dominio temporali aliquorum dominorum Christianorum constitute.“ The Latin is referring to remote and unknown islands and firm lands [continents], “that have not been “established under the domination [“dominio” ] of any Christian dominators [“dominorum Christianorum].”

This claim of a right of domination has been used against Indigenous nations and peoples, and, indeed, against peoples and ecosystems everywhere. Given our long-standing challenge to the patterns of domination that are found in the Vatican papal bulls and other documents, this 2023 Parliament provides an excellent opportunity to embrace and publicize a View-from-the-Shore insight about the Parliament’s theme. Here’s the insight: The present-day concepts of “freedom” and “human rights” have emerged from a historically Greco-Roman-Judeo-Christian context. In that context, words such as “human,” “civil,” “dominion,” and even “freedom,” mean “living under the claim of a right of domination.” This is an accurate context for the idea of “human rights.”

[17]  Joint Statement on the “Doctrine of Discovery” 30 March 2023

[18] Pope Francis in Canada, Walking Together, 24-29 July 2022

[19] Canada: 751 unmarked graves found at residential school, BBC News, 24 June 2021

[20] Pope’s Penitential Pilgrimage to Canada to reconcile and heal, Deborah Castellano Lubov,  Vatican News, 20 July 2022

[21] Why Pope Francis may be hesitant to rescind the Doctrine of Discovery, Mark Gollum, CBC News, 30 July 2022

[22] Pope says genocide took place at Canada’s residential schools, Ka’nhehsí:io Deer, CBC News, 30 Jul 2023

[23] The language from Dum diversas of 1452 is folded into the papal bull, Romanus Pontifex of 1455.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Johnson v. McIntosh at 574.

[26] Gary Caldwell, “St. Francis Turned on his Head: A Summary Assessment of Mission Impact on the Indian Population of Alta California, 1769-1834,” For the Indian Task Force, Advisory Council on California Indian Policy, Revised and Expanded, August 1995. (On file with Original Nations Advocates.)

[27] Ibid., pp. 1-2.

[28] Ibid., p. 4.

[29] Ibid., pp. 4-5

[30] See generally E. N. Van Kleffens, Hispanic Law until the end of the Middle Ages, Edinburgh, 1968. “Note on the continued validity after the fifteenth century of medieval Hispanic legislation…ii. the Fuero Juzgo and Las Siete Partidas in the Americas, Asia, and Africa,” pp. 261-277.

[31] Ibid.

[32] See the explanation of metaphorical systems in Newcomb, Pagans in the Promised Land, 2008.

[33] David Stannaard, American Holocaust, 1992.

[34] Ibid., p. 137.

[35] Ibid., pp. 137-138.

[36] America’s Next Saint, St. Junípero Serra, Archbishop Gomez

[37] Why Junipero Serra’s canonization is important for the new evangelization, CNA, 22 January 2015.

[38] America’s Next Saint, op. cit.

[39] Caldwell, p. 16, footnote 2.

[40] Ibid.

[41] America’s Next Saint, op. cit.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid.

[44] The cover of Manuel Vanegas’s biography of Juan Maria Salvatierra uses the “La Conquistadora” to reference the Virgin Mary.

[45] Politics as Vocation, Max Weber, originally from a 1918 speech at Munich University.

[46] Human Rights, United Nations – Peace, dignity and equality on a healthy planet

[47] Ibid.

[48] Ibid.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Article 46, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, adopted 13 September 2007

[51] Note 4, Tribal Sovereignty and the Supreme Court’s 1977-1978 Term, 1978 BYU L. Rev. 911 (1978).