A Resolution for General Convention on Indigenous Peoples

Title: Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery

Resolved, the House of _____________ concurring, That the 76th General Convention direct The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori to write to the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Queen Elizabeth II, urging her majesty to disavow and to repudiate publicly the claimed validity of the doctrine of discovery against all peoples, specifically as it is set forth in the 1496 Royal Charter granted to John Cabot and his sons by King Henry VII, and all other Royal Charters that have been relied thereon for the dispossession of lands and the subjugation of non-Christian peoples from their initial use to the present; and be it further

Resolved, that each diocese within the Episcopal Church be encouraged to reflect upon its, the Episcopal Church’s, and the Anglican Communion’s injustices committed against Indigenous People and encourage all Episcopalians within the Episcopal Church to seek a greater understanding of the Indigenous People within our borders to support them in their ongoing quest for survival and to respect their inherent sovereignty.


European Christian religious leaders beginning with Pope Nicholas V articulated the concept of the doctrine of discovery to justify European monarchs and explorers acting on their behalf to take Indigenous land and possessions and enslave and kill the Indigenous people they encountered.  King Henry VII granted a charter to John Cabot and his sons on March 5, 1496 sanctioning by whatever means necessary to take the land of the Indigenous People of North America.  The charter authorized the Cabots “to find, discover and investigate whatsoever islands, countries, regions or provinces of heathens and infidels, in whatsoever part of the world placed, which before this time were unknown to all Christians.” The Charter also reads in part, “John and his sons or their heirs and deputies may conquer, occupy and possess whatsoever such towns, castles, cities and islands by them thus discovered that they may be able to conquer, occupy and possess, as our vassals and governors lieutenants and deputies therein, acquiring for us the dominion, title and jurisdiction of the same towns, castles, cities, islands and mainlands so discovered.”  Numerous Indigenous People have called upon Queen Elizabeth II to repudiate the Cabot Charter and other similar Royal Charters.  This resolution would put the Episcopal Church on record condemning the doctrine of discovery and supporting Indigenous People’s call for repudiation of the 1496 Royal Charter granted to John Cabot and his sons and other similar Royal Charters which sanctioned European invasion of the Western Hemisphere.

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