DISMANTLING the Doctrine of Discovery: Purpose and Themes

The Doctrine of Discovery

Purpose and Themes


The word mantel comes from the Latin “mantellum” which can be translated as a “cloak”.  The Doctrine of Discovery, as an instrument of European-American colonization and domination, continues to serve as the “Cloaking Device” which drives the continued normalization of colonialism in violation of the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the fundamental human dignity of all humanity.  In order to dismantle this intellectual pathogen, the first steps require clarity and courage, determination and perseverance.  Centuries of historical trauma will take generations to heal, but as Mother Earth bleeds and climate chaos is the event horizon that surrounds us all, we cannot put off to another generation the need to engage and commit to the necessary corrective actions required for collective decolonization.  This conference is dedicated to that purpose.


Youth – Regeneration

Youth attending the conference will be engaged in a series of activities that break down the meaning and purpose underlying the doctrine of discovery. They will be asked to reflect and share the ways in which they have been impacted by colonization in the classroom and as part of the broader community. Participating youth will develop a set of tools to help them engage their peers in discussion and build awareness around the doctrine of discovery and create their own strategies for dismantling it.

Education – Cognition:

This series of workshops will focus on how the doctrine of discovery can and should be framed within an educational context. It will explore methods of integrating Indigenous language revitalization concepts into the daily lives of Indigenous children through education. This working group will allow participants to become engaged in the process of developing curriculum that addresses the doctrine of discovery and discuss how it can be implemented within current educational institutions at all levels. 

Religion – Spirituality:

This series of workshops will invite participants to share their own experiences and reflect upon how colonization and the doctrine of discovery have impacted our religious and spiritual beliefs. This track revolves around the understanding that religion has played a key role in the creation and implementation of the doctrine of discovery. The discussions will move through the history and engage with the present devastating long-term impacts to Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples alike. Participants will be encouraged to envision a future that rejects the principles of colonization and create strategies that can be implemented within their own communities.

Law: Harmony

This working group track will be directed by the conference conveners: Maya Vision, Techantit and TONATIERRA.  The sessions will be segmented into presentation from the three areas of the continent: South, Central and North.   Each region will address the impact of the Doctrine of Discovery upon their Indigenous Nations and territories, and how they have responded in exercise of the inherent Right of Self Determination as Indigenous Peoples, Equal to all other Peoples.  The impact of extractive mining, the criminalization of resistance, and the issue of International Borders of the colonizing states including domestic and international immigration policies of the government state are priority themes for this working group.

Environment: Pacha Mama

The success of any indoctrination process require a disassociation from reality.  The reality is that we are all children of Mother Earth, and Mother Earth is also a child of the cosmos, and the Cosmos is a Matter of Mystery.  Water and Land related, become watersheds and the Ocean which in reality there is only one ocean on this planet.  Air and Fire related become the atmosphere and energy systems at the planetary level, the drivers of climate.  This working group will address these inter-related natural systems from the perspective of the Indigenous Peoples on the front lines in defense of the Rights of Mother Earth, from the local-regional to the continental and global frames of reference.

Voices of Abya Yala:

We have always been here, since time immemorial.  The dust of our ancestors travel with the wind into the sky and there collect the spirit of the water that becomes the rain, and we return time and again to fulfill our responsibilities and regenerate our nations of Mother Earth.  Yet even she, our Sacred Mother Earth was not always a Mother.  At one time, for a long, long time she was a maiden, and even before that she was simply a dream of creation.  Yet now, however, she has been mother to life on Earth for a long, long time.  She is no longer a young mother. She is now Abya Yala.  She is the Mother Earth who, under the shawl of the Rain of Time, is showing the first grey hairs of becoming a grandmother.

What shall we do to take care of her? How can we take care of her if we do not know who we are, as Nations of the Indigenous Peoples of Abya Yala?


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The Age of Abya Yala

In icuitlacuah oquipantiac in tlapetlanilli.

Le pego el relámpago en la
cuitlacuaitl, en la pura nuca, but by that time it was too late.

They had already begun to laugh out loud, and that beginning was the very first wispy whisper of the roaring wind of their resistance, which came to be later documented in the Archives of Áztlan under the chapter known as the Atecocoli, a chapter which had neither beginning nor ending but kept on growing in remembrance and aspirations as the tale tellers grew, yes, grew older as the elders.

It was too late to expect for federal recognition from the United States government as “Native Americans” and being exactly 160 years after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848), the government of the Republic of the United Mexican States would never flinch now to explain why or how as a political sovereignty recognized within the United Nations system, how could they (as States) transfer territorial integrity to the government in Washington, DC over lands, rivers, mountains, caves, glaciers, and entire ecosystems that they never even knew the name of, except only as shadow provinces of a New Spain that never made it past Geronimo into the New World, tracing projections of the way points of Americo Vespucci, Adams, and Onis.

“Sabes what?”  He said, not questioned but said as only a truly close relative might, could and did say: “Sabes what?”  He began asking out loud to the other ones, who there were not that many (they were not the masses, but only the surviving veteranos of the Movimiento Chicano), as a matter of fact at times there were only a few, or two, or an even one.

It was the multitude in miniature.

“Do you realize we live in the age of Abya Yala?”

He said it out loud but the question part of it went inward to return again four decades later (Gregorian) understanding that it was not resistance but fulfillment that created the high and low pressure zones, states of correlating social sciences trying to account for the lack of human relationship as human beings (what else?) across the territory of the lands of Abya Yala. [AKA: the Americas].

“We are no longer in America.” It was a declaration of voluntary departure. “We no longer live in America, this is now the age of Abya Yala”, and it was a statement of celebration in the powerful hushed tone of reverence and just simple luck to have lived long enough to sense it, see it, and realize that they had become the veteranos of the movement in spite of it all and because of it all.  Because of it all, La Causa had called and they had not resisted but fulfilled its mandate to go where all men and all women had gone before, those who had the good sense to go before and become the ancestors of those of us now going to find out just how they did it, how did they fulfill their love for life and humanity, and so they said it again repeating:

“Let us say with absolutely no risk of sounding ridiculous that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.”

It sounded good but in actuality the preference was for: 

“Prefiero morir de risa que vivir sufriendo.” 

And so it began, once, again.  Beginning with an echo, the laughter came out with that wispy nostalgia, whispering the question loudly in clear free flight, and with night sky of the desert wind for a trail:  “Where have you been?” 

I was trying to remember.  Already I was trying to remember what it was like to live in America before the Age of Abya Yala.

Chapter 1. Cemhueytlalpan – Pangaea


hueytlalpan:  continente m  continent

ixachitecatl: indígena americano, nativo americano, amerindio, gente autoctona que habita en las tierras de todo el continenteamericano, desde Alaska y Groelandia, hasta la Patagonia chileno-argentina.
Indigenous person of Ixachitlan, Abya Yala [the Americas], (native american), amerindian, auctocotonous peoples who live in the lands of the entire continent Abya Yala [the Americas], from Alaska and Greenland to Patagonia of Chile and Argentinia. 

Ixachitlan: América (Lugar de la gran tierra), así nombraban los aztecas al continente americano antes de la llegada de los españoles.
Abya Yala [America] (Place of the great land), thus was named by the Azteca the continent before the arrival of the Spaniards.


ixachi: bastante, suficiente, grande, gran, mucho
full, sufficient, great, much, 


Anahuac, Cemanahuac
Hueytlalpan, Cemhueytlalpan

Gaea |ˈjēə|
variant spelling of Gaia (sense 1). Gaia |ˈgīə| |ˈgaɪə| |ˈgʌɪə|

1 (also Gaea, Ge) Greek Mythology the Earth personified as a goddess, daughter of Chaos. She was the mother and wife of Uranus (Heaven); their offspring included the Titans and the Cyclopes. [ORIGIN: Greek, ‘Earth.’ ]

2 the earth viewed as a vast self-regulating organism. [ORIGIN: 1970s: coined by James Lovelock, at the suggestion of the writer William Golding, from the name of the goddess Gaia.]


Gaian |ˈgaɪən| noun & adjective

pan-combining form

all-inclusive, esp. in relation to the whole of a continent, racial group, religion, etc. : pan-African | pansexual.
ORIGIN from Greek pan, neuter of pas ‘all.’-

There are 5 results for «relampago»

tlahuetequi: rayo m, relámpago m
tlapetlalli: relámpago m
tlapetlanalotl: relámpago m
tlatomitl: rayo m, descarga eléctrica f, relámpago m
tletletl: rayo m, relámpago m
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A Lesson in Democracy and Human Rights for Arizona


Press Release

April 12, 2013
Contact: Tupac Enrique Acosta (602) 466-8367
Email: chantlaca@tonatierra.org
A Lesson in Democracy and Human Rights for Arizona

Phoenix, AZ – They call themselves the Haudenosaunee – the People of the Longhouse,[1] and are known to have instructed the Founding Fathers of the original thirteen British colonies in their initial efforts to form the confederation of states that became the US in 1776.  As representatives of the oldest democracy in the hemisphere, the Haudenosaunee shared with the immigrant European settlers the principles of self-government that as a Traditional Confederacy of Indigenous Nations had been the original foundation of the political tradition of democratic self-government for over a thousand years in the continent known to Europe as “The New World.”

The Haudenosaunee still stand today in their traditional territories [upper New York state] as a self governing indigenous confederation of Six Nations, holding council as they have for hundreds of years at the Central Fire in the Onondaga Nation, in lands known to the Indigenous Peoples as the Great Turtle Island.  Next week, a legation of the Haudenosaunee will travel to Arizona to share once more the story of Democracy and Human Rights, and remind the settler societies of the states established across the continent since October 12, 1492 of the traditional indigenous mandate of responsibility to the seven generations yet to come, codes of common conduct and International Law necessary to realize mutual self respect and self determination as Prerogatives of the Peoples of the Natural World.

The US congress memorialized this history and honored the Haudenosaunee in 1988 by adoption of H.Con. Res. 331 which states:

“Whereas the confederation of the original Thirteen Colonies into one republic was influenced by the political system developed by the Iroquois Confederacy as were many of the democratic principles which were incorporated into the Constitution itself;”
The legation from the Haudenosaunee will be attending an international conference at ASU West April 19-20 in Glendale Arizona, whose theme is Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery.[2]  Onondaga Nation Chief Jake Edwards will address the assembly on Friday April 19th in the opening session.  Also attending the conference will be delegations of Nations and Pueblos of Indigenous Peoples from the entire hemisphere, from the Lenape of the North [Canada] to the Mapuche Nation of the South [Chile]. Representatives of the Maya of Totonicapan [Guatemala] and the Nahuat Pipil [El Salvador] will join with Indigenous Nations of the O’otham [Arizona] and the O’dam of Mexico [Durango] to receive the Continental Confederation of Indigenous Nations intent on regenerating the historical and political vision of responsibility and traditional alliance that has sustained the collective cultural identity and nationhood of Indigenous Peoples for millennia.

Faced with the oncoming wave of climate chaos scenarios that have been exacerbated by the phenomena of global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions from human industrialization, the gathering will address the root causes of the “racial profiling” of Indigenous Peoples as “Indians” “Savages” “Minorities” and “Immigrants” in the eyes of the settlers from Europe and the subsequent state policies that have deformed and deviated from the traditional indigenous Mandate of Responsibilityto the Future Generations since establishment on October 12, 1492 of the Doctrine of Discovery

The Indigenous Peoples will not be isolated in the task.  Joining with the delegation of Indigenous Nations of Abya Yala Turtle Island, Cemanahuac [the Americas] will be a diverse spectrum of non-indigenous activists and organizations and academic institutions including the leadership of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations who in their annual conference last summer in Phoenix, adopted a resolution repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery and calling for the full implementation of the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples across the country. Dr. Phil Arnold of Syracuse University will be in attendance with the message of the Skä•noñh Center – Great Law of Peace Centerat Onondaga Lake in New York.  Skä•noñh, is an Onondaga welcoming greeting meaning Peace and Wellness.

Over one hundred high school students from the Phoenix Union High School District and surrounding reservations are also expected to attend the conference at ASU West, as well as local leadership of both urban and reservation Native American communities.  A special installation by Zuni Pueblo artist, Edward Wemytewa will highlight the event, which will conclude with a cultural celebration on Saturday evening April 20that ASU West, 4701 West Thunderbird in Glendale, AZ.

The Conference at ASU West is convened in consequence to the Preliminary Study on the Impact of the Doctrine of Discovery commissioned by the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), and the specific recommendation given to the UN Economic and Social council by the UNPFII in 2012:

“The Permanent Forum recommends that States include in all education curricula, in particular the school system, a discussion of the doctrine of discovery/dispossession and its contemporary manifestations, including land laws and policies of removal.”

Co-conveners of this International conference are TONATIERRA, Maya Vision (Los Angeles), Techantit (Los Angeles), Instituto de Ciencia y Cultura Indigena (ICCI) of Ecuador, and Universidad Amawtay Wasi also of Ecuador.  The event is being hosted by the Social Justice and Human Rights Program at ASU West.A primary objective of the conference at ASU West will be the production of a template in the form of a curriculum that could be implemented in the public schools of Arizona relevant to the purpose of the conference. Such a template could then be replicated and adapted for use in public venues of education in other states, and throughout Indian Country. The International Conference at ASU West is itself in consequence to the call given at Indigenous Peoples Forum on the Doctrine of Discovery realized the Arizona State Capitol House of Representatives on March 23, 2012.  The event will be streamed live via Internet. 

Conference Website:

For more information, contact:

Tupac Enrique Acosta, Coordinator
Cell: (602) 466-8367

[1] The Haudenosaunee are most often, and mistakenly, referred to as the “Iroquois” or “Six Nations Iroquois”.


The link below is a pdf version of the Iroquois Confederacy of Nations hearing before Select Committee on Indian Affairs US Senate. From the 100th Congress on Senate Congressional Resolution 76: “To acknowledge the Contribution of the Iroquois Confederacy of Nations to the Development of the U.S. Constitution and to reaffirm the continuing government-to-government relationship between Indian Tribes and the United States established in the
Constitution. December 2, 1987


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XINACHTLI: Inevitably


An Indigenous Peoples Studies Educational  Program

of Cultural Empowerment and Competency

Tupac Enrique Acosta 1991

“Inevitably, cultural self-government and cultural self-determination must precede their political and economic counterparts if these latter areas are to have any substance and significance.”

The Nations Within – The Past and Future of American Indian Sovereignty by, Vine Deloria  Jr. and Clifford Lytle, ©1964 


The destruction of the thousands of AMOXTIN that existed in the Mesoamerican centers of learning during the first phase of Spanish invasion of Abya Yala [the Americas] may perhaps never be accurately evaluated in terms of the effect on the heirs of these sources of knowledge; the autos-de-feby Archbishop Zumarraga of the libraries of Texcoco are the most well known but were doubtless countless others that escaped notation in the colonial histories.  What is known is that every commercial and cultural center had its AMOXCALLI  and that the art of writing – TLACUILOA– was extensively instructed in the TELPOCHCALLI and CALMECAC, the two major educational institutions of the Nahuatlacah. As script, a form of writing- the complex system combined text, image, and color in a phonetic representation that required the talent of the artist and el conocimiento del sabio for it’s expressions.    To read (not interpret) the Nahuatl written language was however most nearly universal in the urban centers where public education was obligatory.    It is well to remember that the meso-american culture was predominantly urban where the centers of population followed the spiritual tradition of being ceremonial centers, each a dynamic focus of space and time.  The primordial orientation of the culture, reflected in the name of the language itself, NAHUATL, in harmony with the forces of creation.   This entailed above the balance at all levels of the cosmic duality that represented the highest level of the highest of Nahuatl philosophy – OMETEOTL.

Of the thousands of Nahuatl codices, there survive today fourteen that are given the recognition of being representatives of the traditional writing system.   Of the fourteen, only one, the Codice Borbonious, is generally accepted as being of Pre-Hispanic origin.   Coincidentally this codice is also the only one that is attributed specifically to the MEXICA or AZTECA pueblo.  The rest are for the most part documents solicited by the Spanish authorities, both civil and ecclesiastic, for the purpose of gathering more information on the culture they were subjugating.  One of the most extensive sources of the writing tradition comes from the mandate of the Spanish Crown for maps of the dominions in the Vice-Royalty of New Spain. 

It fell to the TLACUILO to supply the maps and they did so using, the surviving tradition of the ALTEPEAMATL, el libro del puebloas well as name-portraits of the founders and the TEKW’UTLI in authority.  Under the law of La Reforme Agraria in Mexico, these ALTEPEAMATL have been recognized as valid legal documents securing land title for indigenous pueblos, with the condition that they be readable.   

Besides the codices, there are other examples of the writing tradition that take their names from the media on which they are presented, such as lienzos, rollos, tableau, etc.  Finally, there are murals, sculptures, ceramics, and the inscriptions on stone.

The negation of the existence of a written convention for Nahuatl began with the first arriving Spaniards.  Although the initial accounts of their encounter with the Meso- American civilization were full admiration, however, the Spaniards quickly reversed themselves and began to negate all positive aspects of the culture.  It became necessary in order to impose the colonial superstructure to diminish the civilization, culture, and language of the indigena to a savage and unenlightened status.   

The denial of the science and art of the Nahuatl script as an instrument of human literature served the immediate purpose of forcing all official, legal transaction to be conducted in the European scheme, with Latin Characters.  This demeaning approach within of the Euro-centric schools of anthropology and linguistics has preserved the bias at the highest levels of academia.  It has taught that the criteria for recognizing a written language is that the symbolic elements cannot have a representation outside of the phonetic, a definition that suits the Indo-European languages and relegates all others to an inferior status.  As a direct consequence, the history, systems of knowledge, and languages or indigenous Mexico are referenced as dialects only.

Furthermore, this prejudice has shielded the continued colonization of the continent from impartial intellectual evaluation, denying in precept the existence of the surviving indigenous civilization except, in terms of the nation states currently enjoying international recognition.

Nearly five hundred years after the invasion by Spain, the Indigenous Peoples of Anahuac Mexico still suffer the imposition of a European-American Psychology of domination upon the national identity. 

Spain imposed a Spanish Only policy in the Vice-Royalty of New Spain, which resulted in the suppression of the continuity of development, in intellectual terms, of the indigenous cultures. The criminalization and stigmatization of  a Peoples’ aboriginal form of expression as a deliberate policy results in the psychological genocide of the succeeding generations.  The success of the policy is reinforced by the other levels of genocide: physical, cultural, and political –  but  the pogrom of psychological genocide is the most pervasive of sciences and necessarily so.

South of the Rio Bravo, the European allegiances  (Hispanic, Latino, Portuguese, etc,)  are a numerical minority and to retain control over the predominantly indigenous population of Mexico overt colonization is not viable.  Instead, the concept is to control the Mexican allegiance by ursurpingthe symbolism and nationality of the ancient indigenous political confederacies of Mexico (Aguila y Nopal, Piedra y Agua, TENOCHTITLAN) thereby subverting the liberation of the Nican Tlacah, Indigenous Peoples of Mexico Profundo in an age of DECOLONIZATION.

Yet MEXICAYOTL has endured.  Within la Republica Mexicana the Mexican language is the mother tongue of over two million and in AZTLAN a new generation –el XICANO – has revived the consciousness of our ancient indigenous identity.  This consciencia is not a romantic idealization, but a process born of the relationship and historical struggle for liberation with the surviving indigenous nations that form the family of UtoAztecan languages in the territory.

However, to escape the parameters of the European intellect and participate in the regeneration of our indigenous destiny, the path to communication and thus confederacy with the other nations of Aztlan is through the language.  More profoundly, in an indigenous context not limited to anthroprocentric conceptions of society, communication processes of harmonization of the people with the powers of nature and the cosmos requires the ceremonial and non-verbal  (movement-imagery) aspects of the culture.  These ceremonials and their caretakers are the remaining bases of resistance to the total psychological conquest of the people.  Their survival over 500 years of European-American domination is a testament to the enduring values of the Nahuatl culture.



From a report written for the 1990 Continental

Conference on the 500 Years of Indian Resistance attended

By 120 representatives of Indigenous Nations from

Throughout the hemisphere –Commission of Culture,

Religion and Education.  Quito, Ecuador – July, 1990

The Legend of Truth and the Doctrines of Power 


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