(Five years ago, Indian Country Today published a commentary worth repeating. Unfortunately, they do not maintain an archive of their articles, so the following is my attempt at capturing the essential aspects of it here.)
The roots of American Indian self-government do not derive from American law or from treaties, but precede the treaties and the formation of the U.S. Constitution. American Indian nations are not parties to the U.S. Constitution, and therefore not part of the original consensus that is American government. When Indian nations negotiated treaties with European colonies and later the United States, the Indian nations assumed positions of political and governmental independence.
When Indian nations negotiated treaties recognizing U.S. dominion starting in the 1790s, the tribes were not agreeing to U.S. powers over culture and government, but instead were agreeing to become allies to the United States against other foreign colonial powers. In these agreements, the Indian nations retained powers of self-government that are recognized by the United States to have existed from time immemorial.
American Indian communities maintain commitments to kinship and culture that do not reflect the way of government of the United States, but often are guided by the values and visions of tribal ancestors and teachings. Self-government and the roots of American Indian national autonomy originate and remain grounded within the values and cultures of Indian communities.
The Americans, however, are a cruel, conniving and covetous people, capable of deceiving even themselves into believing that God is on their side. After a dozen generations of betrayals of treaties, ethnic cleansing and genocide, the psychosis of this self-deception and delusions of grandeur, projected in American domestic and foreign policy toward Indigenous peoples, is a field day for psychiatrists, anthropologists and other social scientists.
Meanwhile, back on the reservation, dealing with the social impacts of such inhumane policies and acts of cruelty is a daunting task. Indeed, the most vital role of Indigenous governance in America today is arguably seeing to the mental health needs of these survivors of the American holocaust–a task that won’t get easier until Americans stop believing in Manifest Destiny.
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