AFN Response to the Vatican’s Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery

Published: Mar 31, 2023News

(Ottawa, ON) – The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is welcoming the Vatican’s formal repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery.

The 15th-century papal bulls paved the way for colonization of Indigenous lands across Turtle Island. They continue to form the basis of some property law in Canada. “Today’s statement from the Holy See reaffirms that the papal bulls that granted such ‘rights’ to colonizing sovereigns have never been a part of the church’s magisterium,” said National Chief RoseAnne Archibald.

For years, the Assembly of First Nations and other groups have called for the documents to be rescinded. This message was sent directly to Pope Francis by an AFN delegation that traveled to the Vatican in 2022. The delegation was led by Northwest Territories Regional Chief Gerald Antoine. Regional Chief Antoine is grateful for the efforts of leadership past and present in sharing the message of the harmful effects of the Doctrine. “Despite the relentless efforts to convince us otherwise, we have never given up our truth, how we perceive our existence and our teaching as Original Families from here. It is important for us to continue strengthening ourselves as a nation of Original families. With the goal to help each other implement meaningful initiatives that benefit our people’s families that we serve.”

National Chief Archibald insists the Vatican still has work to do to address its role in the forced assimilation of Indigenous children, families, and Nations. Specifically, the National Chief would like to see a new, formal papal bull that affirms Indigenous Sovereignty and control over lands, resources, governance, culture, and language. They must also decree Indigenous traditions and ways of being as valuable, worthy of dignity and respect, and essential to humanity’s continued evolution and growth. “As National Chief, I will remain cautious and critical of the Catholic church. I will also remain committed to healing. Only with Truth, Transparency, and Accountability can we walk the Healing Path Forward together.”

Leaders of National Indigenous Organizations will be connecting at a press conference in Ottawa next week to provide further comment on the Vatican’s announcement. For more details, please visit

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is a national advocacy organization that works to advance the collective aspirations of First Nations individuals and communities across Canada on matters of national or international nature and concern.  Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.


Contact information:

Matthew Bisson
Communications Officer
Assembly of First Nations
343-573-2229 (mobile)
[email protected]

Andrew St. Germain
Office of the National Chief
416-543-1690 (mobile)
[email protected]

Leeanne Goose
Press Secretary
Office of Regional Chief Antoine
587-986-6215 (mobile)
[email protected]