White settlers saw land for the taking. They failed to consider the perspective of the people already here.
In The Land Is Not Empty, author Sarah Augustine unpacks the harm of the Doctrine of Discovery—a set of laws rooted in the fifteenth century that gave Christian governments the moral and legal right to seize lands they “discovered” despite those lands already being populated by indigenous peoples. Legitimized by the church and justified by a misreading of Scripture, the Doctrine of Discovery says a land can be considered “empty” and therefore free for the taking if inhabited by “heathens, pagans, and infidels.”
In this prophetic book, Augustine, a Pueblo woman, reframes the colonization of North America as she investigates ways that the Doctrine of Discovery continues to devastate indigenous cultures, and even the planet itself, as it justifies exploitation of both natural resources and people. This is a powerful call to reckon with the root causes of a legacy that continues to have devastating effects on indigenous peoples around the globe and a call to recognize how all of our lives and our choices are interwoven.
What was done in the name of Christ must be undone in the name of Christ, the author claims. The good news of Jesus means there is still hope for the righting of wrongs. Right relationship with God, others, and the earth requires no less.
Sarah Augustine is founder and cochair of the Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery and executive director of the Dispute Resolution Center of Yakima and Kittitas Counties. Augustine, who is Pueblo (Tewa), has written for Sojourners, The Mennonite, and other publications, and she is an adjunct professor at Heritage University. She and her husband, Dan Peplow, and their son live in the Yakima Valley of Washington.
Click here to purchase a copy of The Land is Not Empty.