Discovery doctrine

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The discovery doctrine, also called the doctrine of discovery, is a concept of property law that allows governments to lay claim to lands that have been "discovered" by citizens of that country, and to usurp any claims of the indigenous people of that land. Through the discovery doctrine, highly militarized countries have been able to colonize mineral-rich lands for centuries. Many times the conquering forces committed genocide against indigenous peoples. Thanks to the discovery doctrine, some cultures have been permanently wiped out of existence.

The United States Supreme Court has upheld the discovery doctrine many times, as have the courts of other colonial powers like Great Britain, France, Portugal, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands.

During the General Convention of the Episcopal Church conducted on 8-17 August 2009, the bishops of the church adopted a resolution officially repudiating the discovery doctrine[1] — rather late and pointless, since the United Nations already had an effective declaration on decolonization by 1960.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. Schjonberg, Mary Frances. "General Convention renounces Doctrine of Discovery", Episcopal Life Online, 27 August 2009.
  2. History The United Nations and Decolonization]