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The Doctrine of Discovery: Law, Theology, and Indigenous Resistance on the 200th Anniversary of Johnson v. M’Intosh

March 22 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

On the 200th anniversary of Johnson v. M’Intosh, UC Law School SF highlights and explores the global impact of the Doctrine of Discovery on Indigenous Peoples and the significance of its incorporation into U.S. law. Johnson v. M’Intosh remains the basis of all U.S. property law and was used by Andrew Jackson to clear the Southeast of Native nations for cotton and slavery, setting the stage for the Civil War that has never really ended.

Presenting a special screening of the work-in-progress documentary THE DOCTRINE by award-winning filmmaker Gwendolen Cates, the event will be hosted by Indigenous Law Center Visiting Professor and Senior Visiting Scholar Lindsay Robertson. Featuring Indigenous advocates in the U.S., Aotearoa/New Zealand, and Guatemala, the film exposes how 15th century laws of colonization issued by the Vatican that codified slavery and racial inequity became international law, impacted Indigenous communities globally, and enable corporate forces driving climate change. After opening remarks by Professor Robertson, celebrated Anishinabe poet and novelist Gordon Henry will read one of his poems, followed by acclaimed playwright George Emilio Sanchez, who will read an excerpt from his play “In the Court of the Conqueror”, and internationally recognized Houma scholar N. Bruce Duthu, Chair, Department of Native American & Indigenous Studies at Dartmouth College, who will provide a brief introduction to the Doctrine of Discovery and Indigenous law before the screening. A discussion with the filmmaker and Professor Robertson will follow the screening.

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Learn more about our featured guests


George Emilio Sanchez

George Emilio Sanchez is a writer, performance artist and social justice activist. Most recently, he was the recipient of the inaugural Keith Haring Artist Fellowship by The MacDowell in 2021 in 2019. He premiered XIV at Dixon Place which served as the first installment of his Performing The Constitution series. He has served as the Performance Director for Emergency for 15 years. He has taught at the City University of New York’s College of Staten Island for over 20 years and is a Social Justice Practice Artist-In-Residence at Abrons Art Center. In August 2021, he completed a Masters in Legal Studies in Indigenous Programs at the University of Oklahoma as part of his artistic research for this performance piece.

Gwendolen Cates

Gwendolen Cates is an award-winning independent documentary filmmaker, photographer, and author. Originally a photographer, her portraits of luminaries from Rosa Parks to George Clooney were featured in national and international magazines including Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and Parade. Her critically acclaimed book Indian Country (Grove Press 2001) inspired Oprah to begin a series on Native Americans. Her first documentary film Water Flowing Together about Navajo-Puerto Rican New York City Ballet star Jock Soto premiered nationally on PBS Independent Lens in 2008. Other productions include We Are Unarmed(2020), a fresh look at the peaceful resistance to the DAPL pipeline at Standing Rock, and The Good Mind (2016) which follows Onondaga Nation leaders as they fight for environmental sovereignty of ancestral lands stolen by New York State in violation of a 1794 treaty with George Washington. The daughter of a linguist who was fluent in Diné Bizaad (the Navajo language), Gwendolen lives in her hometown of New York City.

Bruce Duthu

Professor N. Bruce Duthu is the Samson Occom Professor and Chair of Native American & Indigenous Studies at Dartmouth College. An internationally recognized scholar of Native American law and policy, Professor Duthu joined the faculty of Arts & Sciences at Dartmouth in 2008. He served as Dartmouth’s Associate Dean of the Faculty for International Studies & Interdisciplinary Programs. Duthu earned his BA degree in religion and Native American Studies from Dartmouth College and his JD degree from Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans. Prior to joining the Dartmouth faculty, Duthu was Professor of Law at Vermont Law School where he also served as the law school’s Vice Dean for Academic Affairs and as inaugural director of the VLS-Sun Yat- sen University (Guangzhou, China) Partnership in Environmental Law. He served as visiting professor of law at Harvard Law School, the universities of Wollongong and Sydney in New South Wales, Australia, and the University of Trento in northern Italy.

Professor Duthu is the author of SHADOW NATIONS: TRIBAL SOVEREIGNTY AND THE LIMITS OF LEGAL PLURALISM (Oxford University Press 2013) and AMERICAN INDIANS AND THE LAW (Viking/Penguin Press 2008) and was a contributing author of Felix S. Cohen’s HANDBOOK OF FEDERAL INDIAN LAW (2005), the leading treatise in the field of federal Indian law. His co-edited special volume of South Atlantic Quarterly, Sovereignty, Indigeneity and the Law, won the 2011 CELJ (Council of Editors of Learned Journals) award for Best Special Issue. He co-produced the documentary feature film, Dawnland (2018) that focuses on state removal of Indian children from their families. In 2019, Dawnland received an Emmy award for Outstanding Research. Duthu has lectured on indigenous rights in various parts of the world, including Russia, China, Bolivia, Italy, France, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Professor Duthu is an enrolled tribal member of the United Houma Nation of Louisiana. He and his wife, Hilde Ojibway, have 3 children and 5 grandchildren.

 Mitch Walking Elk

Oklahoma born and raised, and recently semi-retired there after living in St. Paul, Minnesota for many years, Mitch Walking Elk is an enrolled member of the Southern Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. He also is part Hopi. Mitch founded the Indigenous Youth Ceremonial Mentoring Society, a select group of Indigenous youth attending school in the St. Paul School District who are taught traditional ceremonial life ways of Indigenous Tribal Nations. He has been a member of the American Indian Movement (AIM) since 1974. AIM originated in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1968 initially in response to police brutality against Native people but evolved into a national movement that encourages the survival and revival of Indian traditions. Mitch is a recording artist, songwriter and blues singer who has performed throughout the U.S., South America, Japan, toured European countries more than 50 times, won Best Blues Recording for “Up From the Ashes” at the 2013 Native American Music Awards (NAMA), and is also the author of an autobiography titled “There Will Be No Surrender” which has been published in Germany.

Lindsay G. Robertson

Professor Lindsay G. Robertson, J.D., Ph.D. (History), is a professor at the University of Oklahoma College of Law and the 2022-23 Indigenous Center Visiting Professor and Senior Visiting Scholar at UC College of the Law, San Francisco.  He served as Private Sector Advisor to the U.S. Department of State delegations to the Working Groups on the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2004-06) and the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2004-07) and from 2010-12 was a member of the U.S. Department of State Advisory Committee on International Law.  In 2014, he served as advisor on indigenous peoples law to the Chair of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and in 2016 he was named the first Chickasaw Nation Endowed Chair in Native American Law at the University of Oklahoma College of Law.  He has spoken widely on international and comparative indigenous peoples law issues in the United States, Europe, Latin America and Asia.  An elected member of the American Law Institute and the American Bar Foundation, he serves as a justice on the Supreme Court of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes and as Senior Legal Adviser to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Professor Robertson is the author of Conquest by Law (Oxford University Press 2005), the first comprehensive history of the case of Johnson v. M’Intosh.

Gordon Henry

Gordon Henry is an enrolled member/citizen of the White Earth Anishinaabe Nation in Minnesota. He is the Audrey and John C. Leslie, Endowed Chair in American Indian Literature in at Michigan State University, He serves as Senior Editor of the American Indian Studies Series (series sub-imprints Mukwa Enewed and Sovereign Traces) at Michigan State University Press. In 1995 he received an American Book Award for his novel the Light People. In 2007, Henry published a mixed-genre collection, titled The Failure of Certain Charms, with Salt Publishing, out of the U.K. His writing has appeared in journals and anthologies, in translation in Spain, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the U.K. and Germany. He served as regional consultant and contributor to When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through, published in 2020. His poetry also appeared in Living Nations, Living Words, 2021. His poetry collection Spirit Matters: White Clay, Red Exits, Distant Others came out in June of 2022. He is co-editor of Enduring Critical Poses: Life and Letters in Anishinaabe Literature. Henry also has co-edited Not (Just) (an)other, a collection of graphic literature. He is also co-editor, with Ivy Schweitzer, of Afterlives of Indigenous Archives, published in 2019, from the University Press of New England Press. A Catalan translation of his work, The Failure of Certain Charms, was published in October of 2018, by Balandra Edicions in Valencia, Spain.




March 22
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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