Epidemics, Slavery, Massacres, and Indigenous Resistance 1492-1599

1493

Doctrine of Discovery provides rationale for colonization

On May 4, Pope Alexander VI of the Roman Catholic Church issues “Inter Caetera,” a public decree stating that any land inhabited by people who are not Christians can be “discovered” and then claimed by Christian rulers who have the authority to overthrow “barbarous nations” and forcibly bring tribal nations “to the faith itself.” The decree not only provides the rationale for Spanish rule over lands “discovered” by Columbus the previous year but ultimately provides the pretext for stealing Native lands and mandating Christian conversion by European colonizers and, later, via American colonizers. With this decree, the Pope authorizes Spain and Portugal to seize land, colonize, and convert and enslave Indigenous populations.

Settler Colonial Policy