Columbus Day and the Doctrine of Discovery

Columbus makes landfall

Columbus Day rolls around every October as a Federal Holiday to remember the ‘discovery’ of America in 1492. As everyone is fully aware, Columbus did not ‘discover’ a barren and unpopulated land. Quite the opposite. There were people, some say 100 million+ people living in North and South America at the time of Columbus’ arrival. But as the ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ makes clear, those people were considered ‘barbarous’ and therefore did not have any claim to the lands they had occupied for millennia.

Recently, Columbus Day has been replaced in many cities and states by Indigenous Peoples Day in response to the relocation and outright genocide of Native Americans. The Papal Bull titled ‘Demarcation Bull Granting Spain Possession of Lands Discovered by Columbus’ dated May 4, 1493 is now referred to as the ‘Doctrine of Discovery‘, a document you should read. This document became the foundation for land rights still incorporated into the Laws of North and South American countries to this day. In the US, the most recent reference to it was in a legal case brought before the Supreme Court in 2005.