Start A Petition

Native Americans Need Rule of Law, But Whose Law?

Society & Culture  (tags: Indians, American Indians, Native Americans, Law, Finances, Rule of Law, culture, society, politics, rights, ethics, freedoms, government, interesting, humans, news )

- 3760 days ago -
Terry Anderson argues in "Native Americans Need the Rule of Law" (op-ed, March 16) that the keys to ending the persistent poverty of American Indian nations are to end federal control of Indian lands while increasing federal (and state) control over...


We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.


kat y (400)
Friday April 3, 2009, 7:11 am

Terry Anderson argues in "Native Americans Need the Rule of Law" (op-ed, March 16) that the keys to ending the persistent poverty of American Indian nations are to end federal control of Indian lands while increasing federal (and state) control over tribal court systems. He would do the latter through federal standard setting and the threat of state jurisdiction if tribes fail to meet those standards. Mr. Anderson sees this as promoting the rule of law. In fact, it's a return to the destructive paternalism from which Indian country has suffered for so long.

The only policy that has ever worked to reverse decades of poverty on reservations has been to allow Indian nations to take over their own affairs. After decades of decline and stagnation, since about 1990 American Indian economies (both with casinos and without) began to grow at a rate three times faster than the U.S. economy.

The turnaround came when Indian nations wrestled away rights of self-government -- on land use and education, law enforcement and courts -- from federal bureaucracies. As it has everywhere else in the world, self-rule has meant improved accountability and pressure to perform. This has led to remarkable cases such as the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in Oklahoma and the Mississippi Choctaw Nation, where tribal investments in their own judicial systems have brought influxes of investment, expanded employment opportunities, improved living conditions, and an end to the reservation brain drain.

Mr. Anderson's suggestion that reservation poverty has persisted because federal control of Indian lands has blocked development of fee-simple property rights is a gross oversimplification, contradicted by many cases of successful tribal management. Even the cases that Mr. Anderson cites as examples of success following tribal escape from federal control are actually examples of tribally owned enterprises and resources. The Flathead Nation in Montana, one of the two he spotlights, owns and operates major forest resources and a multimillion-dollar electronics manufacturing company.

How did the nation bootstrap itself into a regional economic and political force? It built a court system and tribal government operations that enable it to outcompete its neighbor: the State of Montana, one of the poorest states in the U.S. and home to a court system routinely ranked near the bottom of state judicial systems by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Anderson's call for strengthening the rule of law in Indian country is on target. But the question is: Whose rule of law? Development economists won't dispute that "a stable judicial system is crucial for investment," but when Mr. Anderson says that "tribal courts have not provided this," he is simply wrong. While there is variation in the performance of tribal courts, just as there is of state courts, tribes across the country are racing to improve their constitutions, judiciaries and overall legal infrastructures.

They are reaping rewards in rapidly increasing investment. But despite this, Mr. Anderson appeals to the federal government to wield its heavy hand to remake the court systems of Indian nations. This is a call for choking off the progress Indian nations have made and once again shifting accountability from tribes to federal and state governments. Indian country deserves better.

Prof. Stephen Cornell
University of Arizona
Miriam Jorgensen Research Director
Native Nations Institute
University of Arizona
Tucson, Ariz.

Prof. Carole Goldberg
Los Angeles

Prof. Joseph P. Kalt
Harvard University
Cambridge, Mass.

Past Member (0)
Friday April 3, 2009, 8:59 am
Just what has made the U.S government so arrogant to assume that Native Americans have not been capable...ARE not capable...of governing themselves?

Aletta Kraan (146)
Friday April 3, 2009, 3:39 pm
Agree with you Debbie !!!

. (0)
Friday April 3, 2009, 4:09 pm
noted thank you

Teresa del Castillo (1519)
Friday April 3, 2009, 6:07 pm
Great note Kat.

Past Member (0)
Friday April 3, 2009, 7:32 pm
And to note the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma as well. Their college grant programs are fantastic, not to mention everything else they do for other communities!

sue M (184)
Friday April 3, 2009, 9:04 pm
that the keys to ending the persistent poverty of American Indian nations are to end federal control of Indian lands while increasing federal (and state) control over tribal court

What exactly is changing here? They are still controlled!

Rod Gesner (60)
Friday April 3, 2009, 10:21 pm
Funding To reverse the Poverty (Reparations If you want to call it that;) Creation of an intertribal counsel to Apply jusitice Fairly while allowing self determination by each tribe. a Tribal Supreme Court; But THose are just my Ideas The Nations Must Find thier own way and Converting thier tribal lands to USA Style Biz is Not to me the best Way to Preserve thier Culture...
of Course any funding from the USA; unless it is Demanded and TAKEN BY COURTS; and Forcing Congress To Act without Controll; Will Always have strings attached...
Which is Why First the Treaties Must be honoured, Then the Reparations Paid For the Multitude of Treaty Violations, Then the Tribes will have the Funding and Autonomy to act independantly; and seek thier own answers...

Mary P (177)
Friday April 3, 2009, 11:25 pm
Good post Kat. Thankyou and Noted.

Simon Wood (207)
Saturday April 4, 2009, 4:07 am
Let the Native American people decide for themselves!!!!!

Simon Wood (207)
Saturday April 4, 2009, 4:09 am
No more white control of Indigenous people!!!

Self determination for all Indigenous people!!!

John Farnham (52)
Saturday April 4, 2009, 8:36 am
'White control of indigenous people'
What comments are there to a note that the differences anthropologists note between 'Indians' and Europeans are small enough to be the differences between families, and place them in the same category : Caucasian. It is no favour to plead an invented individuality of body structure which can be turned into an excuse to denigrate in a racist society. Apologies to Negro Indians, especially marginalized by society.

Piettia York (3)
Saturday April 4, 2009, 6:09 pm
Good commet Simon
Let the native americas decide for them selfs. The White man took the land from the Native Americans. If you ask me We should let them live thier lives in peace.I happen to be native american and very pround of it. My great great great grandmother was a full blood cherokkee. So please US goverment back off and let my people live in peace.

Haudeno Saunee (19)
Sunday April 5, 2009, 4:04 am
I knew I smelled a rat as soon as I saw Anderson's name. As some of you probably are aware, he's representing a coterie of Oil and Gas Corporations and right-wing neocon (re:racists) groups aka Americans First, et al., who for years, have been tirelessly trying to gain de facto ownership of Indigenous landsbecause of all the rich deposits of MINERALS, OIL AND GAS underneath. Weaken the Indigenous courts and presto total kontrol is in the hands of that loony bunch! ga dugi is Cherokee for "coming together" (roughly speaking)

Haudeno Saunee (19)
Sunday April 5, 2009, 4:09 am
Many thanks Kat :) for posting this letter...

Dee Amschler (0)
Sunday April 5, 2009, 9:16 am
Thanks for sharing. Can Mr. Anderson - or anyone really - name even ONCE that the U.S. government has done ANYTHING in the best interest of the Native Americans? And I mean purely, truly in their best interest without having to be forced to do so - like how at least one tribe has gone before the UN to have treaties and their rights enforced. This country has a growing problem with human rights issues and what Mr. Anderson suggests is only going to more deeply root the problems - not solve anything.

Tommy S (12)
Sunday April 5, 2009, 4:09 pm
Greetings. I was out to the Res. It is the worst living conditions in the US. Our GOV. knows that. They are allowing the childred to die of RADIATION . Never mind the President went in there and said he would build hoses for them. They just said it was to poor to do that. I THINK ALL PEOPLE IN THE US NEED TO LEARN ABOUT THE SKULL AND BONES. Then they would understand why they live so poorly andf the GOV does not help them. Never mind taking away what little rights they had. T-Hawk

Haudeno Saunee (19)
Sunday April 12, 2009, 1:58 am
Tommy H:

Your words are true.

Long before the Iraqi peoples were inundated by DU, the Indin' nations had been subjected to massive dumpings of RADIOACTIVE WASTE on every Rez without the input or permission of the affected tribe! Of course they also dump huge amounts in/next door to the ghettos...followed by dumping under playgrounds, golf courses, schools, and sports stadium comlexes to name a few other places...

Past Member (0)
Wednesday April 15, 2009, 5:26 am
It happens here in Australia, too, Kat.

The latest episode occurred a few years ago under the previous Federal government. Seizing on the existence within communities of domestic violence and other problems like alcoholism problems that exist throughout society but which are exacerbated by racist oppression and enforced marginalization the right-wing government sent the army and police careening through Aboriginal communities, violating both the civil rights of the Aboriginals and attempting to rescind what few gains Aborigines had won in the previous three decades.

Conservative pundits had long blamed Aborigines for their own immiseration, but this particular "Intervention" was preceded by a sustain campaign of "moral outrage" in the gutter press and on shock-jock radio. The Opposition Parties also fell into step behind the "crusade."

The "Intervention" has had limited success in real terms, (see for an assessment) but has satisfied the desire of white Australians to be seen as "doing something to save them [Aborigines] from themselves." (read "take back control of Aboriginal lives in order to take back their land" it is interesting to note that the Federal government was at he time considering accepting toxic waste from overseas countries, so it''s a good guess where they'd have wanted to plant it!).


Haudeno Saunee (19)
Wednesday April 15, 2009, 1:58 pm

When I was stationed in `Nam, I got my R&R approved for 2 weeks in OZ. I got a taste of how deeply embedded s the racism while there visiting Sydney, Canberra, and Melbourne. Even though this was in the mid 1960's the treatment of the Aboriginals was inhumane even back then!

Jezus it was like dejavu, re: the Reconstruction Era in the old South (US). I happened to mention that fact to some folks that I got to know there, and they subtly reminded me that it's no different (WINKWINK) than in your country Yank! :C
Or, log in with your
Facebook account:
Please add your comment: (plain text only please. Allowable HTML: <a>)

Track Comments: Notify me with a personal message when other people comment on this story

Loading Noted By...Please Wait


butterfly credits on the news network

  • credits for vetting a newly submitted story
  • credits for vetting any other story
  • credits for leaving a comment
learn more

Most Active Today in Society & Culture

Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of or its affiliates.

New to Care2? Start Here.