The “Doctrine of Discovery” is the modern-day name for the international law principle that European nations used to claim most of the non-European world. The Doctrine was applied against Native peoples in North America by England, France, Spain, Holland, and Russia. The United States adopted this legal principle and used it to claim the Oregon Country from other European countries and from the Indian Nations.

This talk will explain the elements, or factors, that make up this international law and argue that the Doctrine of Discovery morphed into “American Manifest Destiny” and was used, and is still being used today, to justify the United States’ acquisition of the lands and assets of the Indian Nations and peoples.

This lecture was originally shared by the Oregon Historical Society

Robert J. Miller

Robert J. Miller is a professor at ASU College of Law. He is a justice on the Grand Ronde Tribe Court of Appeals and the Pascua Yaqui Tribe Court of Appeals, and was appointed in June 2016 to the Navajo Nation Council of Economic Advisors. He was elected to The American Philosophical Society in 2014 and to the American Law Institute in 2012. He is the author of three books: Discovering Indigenous Lands: The Doctrine of Discovery in the English ColoniesReservation Capitalism: Economic Development in Indian Country and Native America, Discovered and Conquered: Thomas Jefferson, Lewis and Clark and Manifest Destiny


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