|Flip image 90deg anti-clockwise.|
Now what do you see?
of the 15th century Doctrine of Discovery. This doctrine underpinned the mis-named Age of Discovery that took place from the 15th to the 17th century. (Mis-named because it really only refers to Europeans “discovering” lands they previously did not know existed. Those who lived in those lands certainly knew the land existed.)
For Europeans (starting with the Portuguese and the Spanish, and then taken up by the British, French, and Dutch) the initial “discovery” was the lands of the Americas, before later “discovering” the lands dotted around the Pacific.
Sadly for the colonisers – tragically for those colonised – the most profound discovery they could have made, never got made.
Whereas those living in Europe at the time had lost contact with Nature and were no longer living in harmony with the land and what it had to offer, the peoples in the Americas and the Pacific lived in cultural settings that retained such a sense of place in the cosmos. This sense of place and harmony was infused within spiritual and cosmological understandings of the rhythms of Nature and the complex interplay of all aspects of the whole. Within this understanding, humans were a part of Nature, no greater, and no lesser, than any other part.
However, the colonising powers and settlers had no time for “discovering” this understanding of life. They were too busy “invading, searching out, capturing, vanquishing, and subduing all Saracens and pagans” as the Doctrine of Discovery gave them power to do.
The colonisers of the Age of Discovery saw only land. They saw First Nations peoples (pagans in the terms of the Doctrine of Discovery) as impeding their so-called “right of discovery” to that land.
In Australia the colonisers took this one step further and declared that the continent was Terra Nullius (land without people,) a “logical” step from the Doctrine of Discovery. Indeed, it was not until 1967 that the First Nations peoples of Australia were recognised as human and not simply as part of the “flora and fauna” of the land.
With eyes only for the land they could “discover,” the wisdom of First Nations peoples stretching over thousands of generations (the real value in the “new lands”) remained “undiscovered.” More’s the pity. Had such wisdom been recognised and understood then we may not have arrived at the environmental and social mess we are in today.
Today, more than three centuries after the end of the Age of Discovery, the wisdom of First Nations peoples is still largely unheeded, unwelcomed, and dismissed.
Those of us with European ancestry living on lands that were colonised since the 15th century would do well to put aside our biases of superiority and Eurocentrism. We might find that there is much of real worth to be discovered by listening to those with thousands of generations worth of built knowledge and wisdom.