U.S. Federal Indian Law and Policy and U.S. Double Government

Steven Newcomb

Michael Glennon’s amazing and concise book National Security and Double Government (2014, Oxford University Press), provides an insightful view of the National Security State of the United States, which began with passage of the 1947 National Security Act under the administration of President Harry Truman. Glennon uses the phrase “the Trumanite network” to discuss the highly secretive national security apparatus that has developed within the United States government during the nearly seventy years since the United States officially entered this phase of its existence.

Glennon uses the term “Madisonian institutions” to discuss the typical way in which most people think of the political system of the United States and its founders. “Madisonian,” refers, of course, to James Madison who was instrumental in drafting the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia in 1787, a document ratified by the states in 1789.

Glennon uses “double government” to focus on a key fact. Most people think of the United States government as being comprised of those who are occupying the seats of power in the Madisonian system: the Executive, the Congress, and the Judiciary. However, when it comes to U.S. national security issues, it is the opaque world of the Trumanite network, comprised of several hundred people, who are actually in control, albeit behind the scenes. That network has led to the National Surveillance State under whose watchful all-seeing gaze the “land of the free” now lives.

It was undoubtedly as a result of the Trumanite network that, on January 18, 2001, the National Security Council issued a memorandum: “United States Position on Indigenous Rights Negotiations” to the outgoing William Jefferson Clinton administration. 

U.S. delegates were directed to advance the position expressed in the National Security Council memorandum during international discussions of Indigenous peoples issues at such places as the United Nations, and the Organization of American States. The 2001 U.S. position on Indigenous Peoples was reaffirmed by both the G. W. Bush administration and has been reaffirmed by the administration of President Barak Obama.

Point number three of the U.S. National Security Council document addresses the issue of “self-determination” for Indigenous peoples. It reads: “The US delegation should support the term ‘internal self-determination’ in both the UN and the OAS [Organization of the American States] declarations on indigenous rights, defined as follows:” The document continues by clarifying the viewpoint of the U.S.: “Indigenous peoples have the right to internal self-determination.”

In the U.S. document, the word “internal” means internal to a particular Indigenous Nation of People, and “within” the “nation-state,” such as the United States. Point three of the National Security memorandum continues: “By virtue of that right [of internal self-determination], they [Indigenous peoples] may negotiate their political status within the framework of the existing nation-state and are free to pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

In international law, the right of self-determination has been expressed in this manner: “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right, they freely determine their political status…” (emphasis added). The U.S.’s Trumanite network and the National Security Council changed “they determine their political status,” to “they may negotiate their political status within the framework of the existing nation-state…” (emphasis added)

Such language from the National Security Council’s memorandum explains the basis for the U.S.’s 2010 position on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples issued by the U.S. Department of State. In that position, the State Department said: “The United States is therefore pleased to support the Declaration’s call to promote the development of a new and distinct international concept of self-determination specific to indigenous peoples. The Declaration’s call is to promote the development of a concept of self-determination for indigenous peoples that is different from the existing right of self-determination in international law.”

However, it is not the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that makes a “call” for “a new and distinct concept of self-determination specific to indigenous peoples.” Rather, it is the U.S.’s National Security State and the Trumanite network that has made that call for Original Nations and Peoples (“Indigenous peoples”) to only be accorded “internal self-determination” subsumed within the dominating political system of the United States. It is language skillfully designed to prevent fundamental reform. It is language put forth by the U.S. to maintain the status quote of captivity for Native Nations under U.S. federal Indian law and policy system, on the Judeo-Christian doctrine of a right discovery and domination.

Steven Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape) is co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute and author of Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (Fulcrum, 2008). He has been studying federal Indian law and international law since the early 1980s.

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