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Steven T. Newcomb
Shawnee-Lenape Scholar and Author
Respect the Earth as our Mother
and have a Sacred Regard for All Living Things
Steven T. Newcomb Curriculum Vitae
Steven T. Newcomb (Shawnee/Lenape scholar) is co-founder and director of the Indigenous Law Institute, and author of Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Discovery (2008). He is a producer of the documentary “The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code” (2015), directed by Sheldon Wolfchild (Dakota), with narration by Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree). He has studied federal Indian law and international law since the early 1980s, has written several law review articles, and has been a columnist for Indian Country Today and Indian Country Media Network from 2002 to 2017. He lives with his wife Paige in the Kumeyaay Nation territory of what is today called Southern California.
This resource amplifies Newcomb’s decades-long work on the roots and contemporary patterns of domination traced back to the Vatican Papal Documents of the 15th century and to the Johnson v McIntosh ruling issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1823 which incorporated those patterns into US property law.
Protocol of Domination Vocabulary
When we delve deep into the way in which these conceptions of domination all fit together, we come up with a list. I won’t read the whole list but it’s pretty interesting because you can take this list of the Protocol of Domination and realize that when you read certain documents, especially with regard to Indigenous history or Indian history, you’re going to find these throughout all kinds of documents. And these are from the papal bulls.
For example, the papal bull of 1452 [Dum Diversas 18 June, 1452; English quotations; Latin original] issued by Pope Nicholas V to King Alphonso of Portugal, instructs or authorizes the King to “invade, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens, pagans and other enemies of Christ ... to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery ... and to take away all their possessions and property and to convert their possessions and properties.” Now convert in that context means to unlawfully or wrongfully take or appropriate that which belongs to another. Then the Pope in the next sentence declares it to be just and lawful because he has to account for him—for them doing stuff that’s unlawful. But conceptually, metaphorically they can just say voila!, and its lawful.
Steven Newcomb: Pagans in the Promised Land presentation, 5 Apr 2012
President T. Jefferson to Gov W.H. Harrison (1803):
“Our Policy Respecting The Indians”
“The Termination Of Their History Most Happy For Themselves”
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   Publications    

Film

The Doctrine of Discovery, Unmasking The Domination Code, with 38 plus 2 productions, 2021.

Book

Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (Fulcrum, 2008, isbn.nu, and in Libraries).
Foreward by Peter d’Errico
Pagans in the Promised Land: a Primer on Religious Freedom Review by American Indian Law Alliance, 2021.

Book Chapters

Domination in relation to Indigenous (‘dominated’) Peoples in international Law,” Chapter Two in, Indigenous Peoples as Subjects of International Law (Routledge, 2017).

Original Nations of ‘Great Turtle Island’ and the Genesis of the United States,” Chapter One in, The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Religion and Politics in the U.S., (WileyBlack, 2016).

Other Writings

Communicating Across Cultures, Earth First! Journal, 1996.

Five Hundred Years of Injustice, Shaman’s Drum, Fall 1992.

Professor Emeritus of Legal Studies at UMass, Peter d'Errico wrote the Foreward to Pagans in the Promised Land. As he points out, Newcomb’s “work of decoding is akin to Michel Foucault's “archaeology” of knowledge: It is not the history of the past but the history of the present telling us where we are in the law of property and nationhood and how we got here.”

The formative influence of Christian doctrines on U.S. law was once clear and unambiguous. Religious dogmas of fifteenth-century Vatican papal bulls were deployed as the foundation of property law, nationhood, and federal Indian law in the early nineteenth century. Court decisions bound U.S. law to the world of Christendom and Christian imperialism. This process was not hidden or mysterious, nor was it a conspiracy among judges and priests. It was long-range planning for the takeover of a continent and a hemisphere. It was the theory that guided colonial practices. It is the story of Pagans in the Promised Land.

Before we go further, let us distinguish some core terminology. There is a difference between Christ and Christianity: the former is a title given to Jesus of Nazareth by those who believe him to be the Messiah of the family of Abraham; the latter is the teachings these believers produced over many years in the institutional development of their church. Christianity, the belief system of the church, is different from Christendom, which is an amalgamation of churches and states. Christendom consists of alliances among secular princes and priestly authorities; it culminates in the doctrine of divine right of kings and popes.

When we make these important distinctions, we can begin to understand the possibility of differences between the teachings of Jesus and the political and legal doctrines of a church-state complex operating in his name. Jesus is not reported as having ever uttered any words about American Indians, but the official organizations of Christendom most certainly did utter words and enact laws and policies affecting Indians, from the time of first contact to the present. As Newcomb demonstrates, the doctrines of Christendom informed the thinking of jurists and other lawgivers who created property and federal Indian law.

To put it in a nutshell, Pagans in the Promised Land is not an attack on Jesus or Christianity. It is a careful and impassioned exploration of the ways that federal law relating to property, nationhood, and American Indians grew from Christendom. The basic story holds true if we reverse Newcomb's formulation, that Christendom is an aspect of federal Indian law, and say that federal Indian law is an aspect of Christendom. To be specific, property and federal Indian law—the body of rules created by the U.S. government to define the indigenous peoples of this continent, their land rights, and the land rights of the colonizers—is a continental manifestation of the world-historical mission of Christendom: to bring all Creation into its domain.

I emphasize these distinctions to help readers who are unfamiliar with the history of church and state to get past resistance to the charge that Christendom is linked to colonialism and oppression. Readers familiar with Vine Deloria, Jr., and God Is Red will have an easier time with this material because they will already distinguish between religion and spirituality. The point here is for the reader who is sensitive to Christian teachings about Jesus to be open to learning about the problematic history of Christendom in relation to U.S. law....

This is a book to study, not simply to read. It cracks the code that explains the seminal U.S. Supreme Court case Johnson v. M'Intosh, in which "Indian occupancy" and "discoverer's title" intersected. Newcomb's analysis of this cornerstone of U.S. law raises the stakes of legal analysis far beyond antiquarian concern for old cases. His work of decoding is akin to Michel Foucault's "archaeology" of knowledge: It is not the history of the past but the history of the present telling us where we are in the law of property and nationhood and how we got here.

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