To oldcitizen: I do not read Mr. d’Errico as saying that that the interpretations put forth by the United States is “all that we have to work with.” What he does seem to be saying is that when we characterize or refute the interpretations of the United States relative to Indian nations, we ought to be accurate and precise. When d’Errico said “We may wish it were true that the United States recognized Indian nations as fully sovereign and equivalent to foreign nations, but wishing doesn’t make it so,” it would have been better if he had limited this to the United States Supreme Court. In a nineteenth century federal district court decision in Michigan, the court pointed out that the Constitution does not permit making a distinction between U.S. treaties with Indian nations and U.S. treaties with “foreign nations.” The exact same treaty making power of the constitution is exercised in the making of such treaties. As that Court sensibly stated: “It is contended that a treaty with Indian tribes has not the same dignity or effect as a treaty with a foreign and independent nation. This distinction is not authorized by the constitution.” William Wirt, while he was Attorney General of the United States acknowledged the independence of the Indian nations: “…so long as a tribe exists and remains in possession of its lands, its title and possession are sovereign and exclusive. We treat with them as separate sovereignties, and while an Indian nation continues to exist within its acknowledged limits, we have no more right to enter upon their territory than we have to enter upon the territory of a foreign prince.” (Op. Att. Gen.), April 26, 1821, p. 345. Two years later, in 1823, the United States Supreme Court handed down Johnson v. M’Intosh on the basis of the Doctrine of Christian Discovery, and the religious categories in Johnson were again used by the Supreme Court in 1831 to characterize Indian nations as “domestic dependent.” Thus, d’Errico’s article tacitly points to the fact that it is the premise of Christian discovery that needs to be challenged and refuted. If Mr. Keel had mentioned that it would been highly significant. Importantly, Assistant Sect. of Interior Echo Hawk did openly criticize the discovery doctrine last fall; he just left the religious content out of his remarks. Still that was a significant step in the right direction.
Saturday, February 26, 2011 - 22:28