Steven Newcomb

Steven Newcomb is a Shawnee-Lenape scholar and author. He has been studying and writing about U.S. federal Indian law and policy since the early 1980s, particularly the application of international law to Indigenous Nations and Peoples.

Newcomb is the director of the Indigenous Law Institute, which he cofounded with Birgil Kills Straight, a Traditional Headman and Elder of the Oglala Lakota Nation. Together, they have carried on a global campaign challenging imperial Vatican documents from the 15th century. 

Newcomb’s book, Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (2008), relies upon recent findings in cognitive theory and a semantic analysis of the Latin and English versions of 15th century Vatican documents. He has identified the little noticed patterns found in those documents and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which claimed a right of a “Christian prince or people” to discover and exert a right of domination (dominorum Christianorum) over the lands of “heathens and infidels.”

Newcomb’s work has also served as a powerful context for the documentary “The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code,” directed and produced by Sheldon Wolfchild (Dakota) and coproduced by Newcomb. 

Having majored in Rhetoric and Communication at the University of Oregon, Newcomb uses his expertise in persuasive argument and rhetorical analysis on behalf of Original Nations. He has worked on Indigenous Peoples issues at the United Nations for 20 years, and has worked with numerous Native Nations and Peoples. Newcomb is published by Wiley-Blackwell (Oxford), Routledge, New York University School of Law, Fulcrum Publishing, the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law, and the Griffith School of Law in Australia. He has been a regular columnist with Indian Country Today Media Network Now since 2001.