Later On

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Posts Tagged ‘Native Americans

An American Indian responds to Scott Brown

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Very interesting op-ed by David Treuer in the NY Times:

JUST over a week ago, a handful of Senator Scott P. Brown’s supporters gathered in Boston to protest his opponent, Elizabeth Warren. The crowd — making Indian war whoops and tomahawk chops — was ridiculing what Mr. Brown, Republican of Massachusetts, called the “offense” of Ms. Warren’s claim that she has Cherokee and Delaware ancestry.

To mock real Indians by chanting like Hollywood Indians in order to protest someone you claim is not Indian at all gets very confusing. Even more so because early Americans spent centuries killing Indians, and then decades trying to drive any distinctive Indianness out of the ones who survived. Perhaps we’ve come a long way if Americans are now going around accusing people who don’t look or act Indian enough of appropriating that identity for personal gain. But in fact, the appropriation of Indian virtues is one of the country’s oldest traditions.

Indians — who we are and what we mean — have always been part of how America defined itself. Indians on the East Coast were largely (but never completely) deracinated, and tribes like the Delaware were either killed or relocated farther west. At the same time, their Indianness was extracted as a set of virtues: honor, stoicism, dignity, freedom. Once, in college, an African-American student shook his head when I told him that I was Indian and he said he was jealous. Why? I asked. Because you lived life on your own terms and would rather have died than become a slave. That sentiment — totally at odds with the reality in which many tribes were indeed enslaved and a few owned slaves themselves — seemed a very wistful expression of what being an Indian meant.

In any case, the mythic Indian virtues of dignity and freedom adhere less to real Indians than they do to the very nation that deposed them. Just think of how much the ultimate American, the cowboy, has in common with the Indian: a life lived beyond the law but in accordance with a higher set of laws like self-sufficiency, honor, toughness, a painful past, a fondness for whiskey and always that long, lingering look over his shoulder at a way of life quickly disappearing. Contrary to the view held by a lot of Indian people, America hasn’t forgotten us. It has always been obsessed with us and has appropriated, without recourse to reality or our own input, the qualities with which we are associated.

BEGINNING in the late 19th century, assimilation of the remaining American Indian population was official federal policy. This was around the time that the American frontier was considered closed: the West Coast had been reached and there were no more lands or peoples to conquer. And yet Indians still held on to much of our land and our identity. So at the behest of the federal government, thousands of Indian children were removed from their homes and sent to boarding schools. Indian languages and native religions were suppressed. . .

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Written by Leisureguy

30 September 2012 at 7:08 am

Posted in Election, Government

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The Supreme Court and Native Americans

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Interesting article:

Once upon a time, it was the received wisdom that American Indians always won their cases at the Supreme Court. And if one looks back at the opinions from the 1970s and 80s, the record will reflect that this is only a mild exaggeration. Justices Thurgood Marshall and Harry Blackmun wrote dozens of opinions rectifying historical wrongs, liberally construing the powers of tribal self-government, broadly defining the federal government’s "trust responsibility" vis-à-vis the tribes, and upholding preferential treatment of Indians in everything from employment to how statutes should be interpreted.

The winning streak for tribal interests began to wane in the mid-1980s. But now it’s gotten to the point of a complete reversal of the historical pattern. Today, the tribes rarely win at the Court, and these losses have cut back sharply on their power of self-government and diminished the positive aspects of their relationship with the federal government.

This week, in deciding Carcieri v. Salazar, the Supreme Court continued its recent pattern. At issue in Carcieri was the power of the federal government to take into trust on behalf of the Narragansett Tribe of Indians a 31-acre parcel of land that the Tribe had purchased from a local developer. The Secretary of the Interior had done this for the Tribe pursuant to the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, a landmark Indian-rights statute that includes provisions for the U.S. Government to help rebuild tribal land holdings by acquiring land and holding it in trust for the benefit of Indians.

The state of Rhode Island — within which the Narragansett are located – objected to having the land moved into trust and sued to prevent it. Both the district court and Court of Appeals had upheld the Secretary of Interior’s power to confer this benefit on the Tribe. But the Supreme Court has now held otherwise. It was a disturbing ruling that continues a disturbing trend on the Court.

The Story Behind the Carcieri Case

The story of the Narragansett Tribe is a tragic tale, not unlike the stories that surround other once powerful tribal groups on the Eastern Seaboard. Over the centuries, war and disease took a terrible toll on the Tribe. In 1880, what was left of the Narragansett Tribe agreed to accept "detribalization" by the state of Rhode Island and to reduce its landholdings to a meager two acres in exchange for $5000.
The Tribe spent much of the next century trying to undo that terrible choice and reclaim some of its land base. In 1983, the Narragansett finally achieved the status of a "federally recognized tribe" – a sine qua non for being able to receive a host of federal benefits, including (or at so the Narragansett thought) the benefit at issue in Carcieri: the ability to petition the Secretary of Interior to have land taken into trust on the Tribe’s behalf.

The Main Issue Before the Court: How to Interpret the Word "Now" As Used in the Statute

The language of the statute at issue says that it was enacted "for the purpose of providing land for Indians." The statute then defines "Indian" to include "all persons of Indian descent who are members of any recognized Tribe now under federal jurisdiction." …

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Written by Leisureguy

27 February 2009 at 10:50 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

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