Washburn on Membership Disputes: Should US Trample on Sovereignty?
And if it’s okay for the U.S. to step in and trample over tribal sovereignty and self-governance, where do you draw the line?
“One can make a solid argument that the United States never has any business trampling on tribal sovereignty and self-governance, but that’s not satisfying to everyone because we all see occasionally a tribe doing something that well-thinking people outside the tribe disagree with. These are just agonizing decisions and I’m not convinced that the United States is better at making these decisions on average than tribes are at making them themselves,” Washburn said.
As sovereign nations, perhaps tribes should be looking to other authorities for conflict resolution, he suggested.
“There are other forums for deciding tribal disputes that might better serve tribes than the United States. A lot of what we see are human rights violations, at least arguably so, and the United States is not the only entity that has an interest in policing human rights violations. Ultimately, if the tribe is going to be sovereign it has to make these decisions for itself. That doesn’t mean that it’s not subject to criticism by human rights organizations,” Washburn said. “I’m not sure the United States should be the one policing human rights violations in the world, even by tribes… [Sometimes it takes] a heck of a long time to wait while injustice is happening, but I think the tribe needs to find its way through the darkness to the light and it’s hard to know how the United States can be helpful in that process sometimes. We often get entreaties from both sides to get involved, but once we get involved how do we not get involved in the future?”
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