“God’s” Gift of a Right of Domination

In the Old Testament of the Bible, we find the story of a god who chose a particular people with whom he wanted to have a special relationship. Because he chose them, they are known as his “chosen people.” The deity promised a vast amount of land to his chosen people, but, unfortunately, it was land where other nations and peoples were already living.

According to the story, the “God” of the Bible gave “His” chosen people the right to establish a system of domination over the many nations living on the lands he had promised them.

In my book Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (2008), I wrote: “The claim by Christian monarchs of a ‘right to discover and possess’ was also a claim of ‘the right to kill and plunder non-Christians.’ This right of plunder is also found in the Old Testament covenant tradition. For example, in the book of Deuteronomy we find that “the Lord” told his chosen people how they were to behave when “He” brought them into the land they were instructed to possess. Thus:

“When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perrizites, and the the Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou: And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them. . . ”

If the “Chosen People” agreed to follow these “divine” mandates, Yaweh promised to give them “great and goodly cities,” which they did not build, “houses full of all good things,” which they did not fill, wells which they did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees, which they did not plant. After all, “He” had discovered those lands and promised them to “His” “Chosen People,” and because “He” is portrayed as considering “Himself” to be “God,” “He” was able to pass on to “His” “Chosen People,” “His” “Right of Discovery and Domination.”

The “great and goodly cities,” “good things,” “wells,” “vineyards,” and “olive trees,” were part of the “spoils” of the enemies that Yaweh commanded the Hebrews “to eat.” The phrase to eat the spoil of thine enemies corresponds, of course, with the metaphor COLONIZATION IS EATING.

These are the Old Testament patterns of thought and behavior that the United States imposed on our Original Nations and Peoples in the name of U.S. federal Indian law and policy. Ezra Stiles, president of Yale University, invoked this patterning in 1783 when he declared that in the future, “the Lord shall have made his American Israel, high above all nations.” How would this be accomplished? By means of imperial and colonial patterns of domination. In other words, by the steady “colonization” of the continent.

The root of colonization is “colon,” which is the digestive tract of the predator “colonial body politic” which is moving in on top of and invading our Original Nations and Peoples, with the desire to devour them as spoil and prey. The root of colon is “colo,” which means “to filter out impurities in the process of mining.” Mining is the backdrop for the process of colonizing, and look at all the mining that has taken place and continues to take place on the lands and territories of our Original Nations.

All these patterns are the result of a desire to locate (“discover”) and “seize” any newly located geographical area in order to “tap into” and mine them, so that that which is mined can be converted into riches, wealth, and power. To convert has another apt meaning as well, “to unlawfully or wrongfully take away that which belongs to someone else,” such as our Original Nations.

What Chief Justice John Marshall called the “right of discovery” in the Johnson v. McIntosh ruling of 1823 is an outgrowth of a right that the “God” of the Bible was said to have given “His” “Chosen people.” The Chosen People of Christendom were to sail forth in search of the distant non-Christian lands that in that narrative “God” had promised to them. This pattern of “Chosen People” and “Promised Land,” along with the command by “God” to “utterly destroy” the nations already living in that “promised” place, by “smiting” them, and so forth, was eventually globalized and used against Original Nations all over the world.

This narrative of the “God-given” “Right” of Discovery and Domination was woven into the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Johnson & Graham’s Lessee v. McIntosh, where it still remains, with its claim that the monarchs of Christendom had assumed “the ultimate dominion,” or right of domination, to be “in themselves.” When you remove the last letter ‘n’ from the word dominion you get dominio, which means variously, “the dominate,” “to subjugate,” “to subdue,” and “to subordinate.” Today, sadly, patterns of domination and dehumanization are afflicting people across the entire planet.-Steven Newcomb