Cities and states across the country are acknowledging the devastating history of colonialism by rejecting the federal holiday of Columbus Day and instead celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day to honor centuries of indigenous resistance. We speak with Iakowi:he’ne’ Oakes, executive director of the American Indian Community House in New York. She is a Mohawk woman of the Snipe Clan. Oakes explains the significance of the so-called “Doctrine of Discovery,” which in 1493 was invoked by Pope Alexander VI to establish the basis for Christian settlers to colonize land occupied by indigenous peoples. “If you’re not Christian people, you’re not considered human,” she says of the document. “Basically, we can’t have title to land if we are indigenous and non-Christian.” She and other indigenous advocates are calling on the Vatican to retract the doctrine.
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