NCAI Statement on Vatican's Repudiation of "Doctrine of Discovery"

Published on Mar 30, 2023

Today, the Vatican released a statement repudiating long held, church-endorsed concepts that "fail[ed] to recognize the inherent human rights of indigenous peoples, including what has become known as the legal and political 'doctrine of discovery.'"

NCAI's official statement:

"The National Congress of American Indians commends Pope Francis and the Catholic Church for finally repudiating the dehumanizing Doctrine of Discovery and acknowledging what Indigenous peoples have known all along—that the Doctrine ‘did not adequately reflect the equal dignity and rights of Indigenous peoples'. It is no secret that many governments -- including the United States -- have relied on this doctrine to justify the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples and the taking of our lands. It is our sincere hope that today’s announcement is more than mere words, but rather is the beginning of a full acknowledgement of the history of oppression and a full accounting of the legacies of colonialism—not just by the Roman Catholic Church, but by all the world governments that have used racism, prejudice and religious authority to not only justify past inequalities, but to allow, fuel, and perpetuate the institutionalization of those inequalities that continue to this very day. We thank the Creator that Indigenous peoples are strong, resilient, full of wisdom, faith, hope, and love, and we stand ready to have difficult conversations about the future and to work together to build off of today’s  step forward to bring about meaningful positive change to our people and nations, and for the healing, reconciliation and restoration of all peoples across the globe.”


About the National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is the oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the United States. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies. NCAI promotes an understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people, and rights. For more information, visit

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