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Subjugation and Control of Indigenous People

Subjugation and Control of Indigenous People

Treaty 2 Territory – On May 15 – 26, 2006, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues held its fifteenth conference at the United Nations.  In the conference on May 18, during an event called Papal Bulls, Manifest Destiny and American Empire, Oren Lyons said “before Columbus, Turtle Island was a pristine land of plenty, where

Treaty 2 Territory – On May 15 – 26, 2006, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues held its fifteenth conference at the United Nations.  In the conference on May 18, during an event called Papal Bulls, Manifest Destiny and American Empire, Oren Lyons said “before Columbus, Turtle Island was a pristine land of plenty, where peace was prevalent because everyone understood the basic unwritten law that is the foundation of peace and respect for each other and the land”.[i]

However, modern defacto nations are “burdened by past actions that attempted to destroy the identity of tribal people [by] suppressing and outlawing their cosmology…They continue to refuse to fully recognize the impact their actions inflicted on the self-sustaining [tribal nations].”[ii]

Modern nations define laws to assume control over mother earth’s resources and eradicate people from their geographic territories.  Modern nations have been built by dominant groups at the expense of the less powerful using “white laws” with orthodox Christian ideologies.  The colonizers have still not acknowledged that the result of these laws caused tribal peoples ancient political, economic and social systems to erode.[iii] 

Modern nations disaggregated, disrupted, limited or even destroyed tribal people by the dispossession of the tribes traditional territory and by the relocation of the tribe using their structured institutions and “white laws”.[iv]  The following are some of those laws: the Bible, the Papal Bulls of 1455 and 1493, the Department of War Policy of 1800s, the Gradual Civilization Act of 1857, the British North American Act of 1867, the Indian Act of 1867, and the 1931 Statute of Westminster.  These racist policies are supported by military and police force and are the legal foundation supporting genocidal attacks and subjugation of tribal people on Turtle Island and around the world.

The Bible has been used by the colonizers since first contact to legitimize their destructive actions.  An environmental shock occurred under the legal framework of the church to control people and contain their spirituality during the Christian Inquisition.[v]  People were not converted “to orthodox Christianity through [friendly] preaching and catechisms alone…it was the [500] year period of witch-hunting, [conquest, colonization, and development] from the fifteenth to the [end of the twentieth] century”.[vi]

The bible and the Papal Bulls validated killing “those without God” and stealing their land using the manifest destinydoctrine of discovery, and doctrine of terra nullius.  The development of the doctrine of terra nullius was incorporated into Canada’s law which is a legal system based on the concept of discovering an uninhabited land.  Tonya Gonnella Frichner at the fifteenth conference said “the doctrine of discovery was an agreement among European nations that whichever nation arrived first had the right to explore, colonize, and expropriate the land’s resources”.[vii] 

Frinchner later explains that this doctrine continues to play out on tribal territory.  She explained in 2005, “the Supreme Court ruled that the Oneida Indian Nation of New York was required to pay property taxes on aboriginal lands it had bought back from the city of Sherrill, N.Y.”[viii]

The bible and the Papal Bulls reduced the tribal people to inhuman beings.  This validated the killing and holocaustic attack on the tribes. The Papal Bulls of 1455 and 1493, “provide the foundation for the theft of Indigenous lands throughout the world that continues up to this day.  These doctrines from “a philosophy that [continues to] sanctify the massacre of millions of indigenous people and continues to influence U.S. Supreme Court decisions today”[ix].

Source of Picture: https://nationalequityproject.org/resources/featured-resources/lens-of-systemic-oppression

The colonizers reduced the world to an object.  They approached the environment in a utilitarian manner conducive to consumption of the world rather than living with it.  These positive laws stemming from the bible and the Papal Bulls are opposing the cosmology of the tribes and created economic competition that destroyed the tribe’s systems of sustenance and lifeworld.  

In 1578, Christian Inquisitor “Francesco Pena stated that is must be remembered that the main purpose of the trial and execution is to achieve the public good and put fear into others and not to save the soul of the accused”.[x]  In the 1800s, the Department of War Policy’s main intention was to assimilate and/or terminate the tribal people.[xi]  Those that would not voluntarily submit to the control systems of the government were eradicated.  During the invasion war period the United States government implemented a policy of extermination of the tribes using military force.[xii]  Many tribal people acquired a refugee syndrome as they were displaced from their loved ones and from the land.  They were subdued by force and relocated to reservations unfamiliar to them.  The unfamiliarity of the reservations added to the subjugation by further destroying the culture that was the foundation of the traditional systems of sustenance on their tribal land base.

The following policies were used as the legal framework to socially stratify Indigenous People and eradicate them from their geographic territories.  The Gradual Civilization Act of 1857 and the British North American Act of 1867 incorporated western-patriarchal Christian ideologies into these policies and began to apply legal definitions to the “Indians”.  These acts continued to eliminate and assimilate tribal people through the Residential School period.  Again, the children of an already displaced people were taken from an unfamiliar reservation system and placed in unfamiliar educational environments and institutionalized to further destroy the fabric of their family unit.  Once destruction of the family unit is complete the culture would suffer and the plan of termination of tribal nations would then be complete.

Furthermore, these acts, as well as the Indian Act of 1867, incorporated a hierarchical order of beings into these acts and imposed it on tribes.  They envisioned a rigid vertical hierarchal order of “life forms [that] were ordered according to their descending levels of importance…these inequalities were [believed to be] fixed and ordained by [their] God.[xiii]  The government applied legal definitions to the tribal people to reflect these descending orders “with European civilization at one end of the spectrum and all others falling somewhere below them on the [vertical] scale.”[xiv]  These nominal legal distinctions “are part of legislative government strategy to divide and conquer as well as assimilation”.[xv]  This process of developing legal divisions is implemented by government “to sow the seeds of discontent between factions of a community and bring further tensions and conflict [between the people]…and has nothing to do with actual Indian ancestry”.[xvi]  Each legal group receives different social and economic privileges and different amounts of money.  This has created social stratification across the tribes and causes each legal group to compete and fight with each other for a bigger piece of the fixed amount of privileges and benefits.  The end result is a group of people becoming easier to control as they begin to fight amongst themselves.[xvii]

Throughout the colonization process, the colonizers have attempted to transform the ideologies of the tribal people through any means possible.  Under the Papal Bull of 1493, the colonizers were sanctified to “seek out…barbarous nations [to] be overthrown and brought to the faith itself.”[xviii]  “As early as the 1600s, Steckley and Cummins noted, there was a move to educate [tribal] populations…programs were designed to civilize them by teaching them Christianity.”[xix]  From 1857 to 1945, a paternalistic ideology was interwoven into the fabric of the tribal peoples life world, and in 1945, education in isolation was the policy implemented as one of the final blows to eradicate the life world of tribal people and displace them further from the land and nature.[xx]

Procedures and rules are established to systematically deal with actions defined as wrong.  The institutional order of the dominant culture establishes appropriate organizations and structures to maintain and legitimize the definitions of correct and wrong.  Actors are trained through education institutions to play created positions within the established structures to maintain the status quo.  By the late 1800s, Canada’s defined Police policy was created to maintain the law and order or correct and wrong or status quo.  To effectively create conflict the government identified actions performed by tribal people and defined them as incorrect or wrong.  This would require an agent of a structured institution to respond using a systematic procedure.

Therefore, Individual racism and systematic racism are incorporated in modern nation’s institutional ideologies.  In western Economics, for an individual/nation to gain, other(s) must lose.  Entities controlling legal wards under these economic principals can consume resources with one ward for the benefit of another.  In psychology, the point of reference concentrates almost entirely on personal characteristics of the individual actors (micro-social) in social processes rather than on sociostructural factors.  These technologies of power authorized by the sciences of medicine discriminate against the individual while using (military/police) force to maintain the status quo.


[i] Gale Courey Toensing (2006); Indian Country Today; Papal Bulls and the subjugation of native peoples, theft of indigenous lands; retrieved February 24, 2012 from: http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389×2421675.

[ii] Claire Hutchings (2002); Canada’s First Nations: A Legacy of Institutional Racism; Retrieved on February 25, 2012 from: http://www.tolerance.cz/courses/papers/hutchin.htm.

[iii] Hutchings (2002)

[iv] Hutchings (2002).

[v] Helen Ellerbe; The Dark Side of Christian History: Controlling The Human Spirit, The Inquisition and Slavery 1250-1800; Retrieved on February 28, 2012 from: http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/ellerbe0.htm.

[vi] Helen Ellerbe; The Dark Side of Christian History; The Witch Hunts, The End of Magic and Miracles 1450-1750 C.E.; Retrieved on February 28, 2012 from: http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/ellerbe1.htm.

[vii] Toensing (2006)

[viii] Toensing (2006)

[ix] Toensing (2006)

[x] Ellerbe; The Witch Hunts.

[xi] Frideres & Gadacz; Aboriginal People in Canada; P. 8; (2012).

[xii] Duran, E & Duran, B. (1995). Native American postcolonial psychology. Albany: State University of New York Press.

[xiii] Frideres & Gadacz; Aboriginal People in Canada; P. 34; (2012).

[xiv] Hutchings (2002).

[xv] Frideres & Gadacz; Aboriginal People in Canada; P. 51; (2012).

[xvi] Frideres & Gadacz; Aboriginal People in Canada; P. 48; (2012).

[xvii] Frideres & Gadacz; Aboriginal People in Canada; P. 35 – 44, 51; (2012).

[xviii] Toensing (2006)

[xix] Hutchings (2002)

[xx] Frideres & Gadacz; Aboriginal People in Canada; P. 110; (2012).

Ryan Sutherland

Corporations Keeper

Government, First Nations in Treaty 2 Territory (FNiT2T)

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