The Land Is Not Empty: Following Jesus in Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Price: $16.99 (as of 12/10/2023 13:39 PST- Details) & FREE Shipping. Details

The Land Is Not Empty: Following Jesus in Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery

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White settlers saw land for the taking. They failed to consider the perspective of the people already here.

In The Land Is Not Empty, author Sarah Augustine unpacks the harm of the Doctrine of Discovery–a set of laws rooted in the fifteenth century that gave Christian governments the moral and legal right to seize lands they “discovered” despite those lands already being populated by indigenous peoples. Legitimized by the church and justified by a misreading of Scripture, the Doctrine of Discovery says a land can be considered “empty” and therefore free for the taking if inhabited by “heathens, pagans, and infidels.”

In this prophetic book, Augustine, a Pueblo woman, reframes the colonization of North America as she investigates ways that the Doctrine of Discovery continues to devastate indigenous cultures, and even the planet itself, as it justifies exploitation of both natural resources and people. This is a powerful call to reckon with the root causes of a legacy that continues to have devastating effects on indigenous peoples around the globe and a call to recognize how all of our lives and our choices are interwoven.

What was done in the name of Christ must be undone in the name of Christ, the author claims. The good news of Jesus means there is still hope for the righting of wrongs. Right relationship with God, others, and the earth requires no less.




“In this timely and necessary book, Sarah Augustine calls each of us, through meaningful stories and relevant research, to remember that we are connected to one another. If we want to have real conversations about oppression of Indigenous peoples around the world, Christian missions, the Doctrine of Discovery, and where the church must go from here, this book is a sure guide. The church is constantly asking, ‘What can we do?’ In this book, Sarah tells us. I hope we will listen.” –KAITLIN CURTICE, author of Native: Identity, Belonging, and Rediscovering God

“This book is a clarion call for Christians to rethink the social implications of the gospel message. Sarah Augustine exposes the nexus between the Doctrine of Discovery (a five-hundred-year-old European colonial notion) and the historical and present displacement of Indigenous peoples from their lands by foreign corporations and governments. This book simultaneously calls the Christian church to accountability for its historical complicity with the despoliation of Indigenous people and to prophetically stand on the side of justice, resisting the destructive contemporary effects of this old doctrine on local Indigenous communities around the world and across their lands.” –NÉSTOR MEDINA, assistant professor of religious ethics at Emmanuel College of Victoria University in the University of Toronto and author of Christianity, Empire and the Spirit.

“With an interplay of history, Bible, testimony, analysis, and intimate personal narrative, Sarah Augustine paints a devastating picture of the Doctrine of Discovery as structural sin. Proclaiming a vision of right relationship with Indigenous peoples around the globe, she compels a radical new theological imagination and bold acts of justice from those who aspire to live the mandate of Jesus.” –JENNIFER HENRY, activist theologian

The Land Is Not Empty is a tremendous, liberating work full of love for God and neighbor. Whether you are unfamiliar with the Doctrine of Discovery or are a lifelong Christocentric promoter of Indigenous rights, this book is for you.” –NATHAN CARTAGENA, race scholar and assistant professor of philosophy at Wheaton College

“If insight is the prophetic task–and I believe it is–this book is prophecy. Beautifully weaving together her moving personal narrative, the narrative of destructive colonization, the narrative of courageous resistance and life of Indigenous Peoples around the world, and, through it all, the narrative of resurrection and Jesus’ promise of the world to come, Sarah Augustine engages your mind, your heart, and your future.” –THE MOST REV. MARK MACDONALD, National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Canada


Sarah Augustine, who is a Pueblo (Tewa) descendant, is co-founder and co-chair of the Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery and executive director of the Dispute Resolution Center of Yakima and Kittitas Counties. She is also the co-founder of Suriname Indigenous Health Fund (SIHF), where she has advocated for vulnerable Indigenous Peoples since 2004. She has represented the interests of Indigenous community partners to their own governments, the Inter-American development bank, the United Nations, the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a host of other international actors including corporate interests. She has written for Sojourners, The Mennonite, Anabaptist Witness, Response Magazine and other publications. She is currently a columnist for Anabaptist World, and co-hosts the Doctrine of Discovery podcast with Sheri Hostetler. She and her husband, Dan Peplow, and their son live in the Yakima Valley of Washington.

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