- History & Culture
This 500-year-old Catholic decree encouraged colonization. Will the pope revoke it?
The papal Doctrine of Discovery was used to justify colonization in the name of Christianity—and eventually became embedded in U.S and international law.
Louise Large thrashed and screamed, fighting the black-robed nuns who held her tightly while speaking in a language she couldn’t understand. As she watched her grandmother walk away, the young Cree girl realized she’d been left at the Blue Quill, a residential school for Indigenous children in Alberta, Canada. Afterward, she said in a 2011 testimony to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, “I just screamed and screamed for hours.”
Soon, Large realized that she must adhere to a strict schedule at the school that revolved around Christianity, which she was now expected to practice. The children prayed so much, she said sarcastically, that they all got “boarding school knees”—joints turned callused and creaky because of the schools’