In my recent readings about indigenous governance, a recurring principle of harmonious social organization is that democracy doesn’t scale. American Indian tribes’ consistent rejection of the plenary power “catechism” in U.S. law is based partly on their view that respectful relations and good governance cannot obtain when power is so distant and concentrated.
While not a new idea to the anti-globalization movement, the fact that American Indian experience with self-governance over long time frames led them to institutionalize limits on scale — as well as establish protocols for confederations and diplomacy that acknowledged this principle — lends a scientific validity to their claim. Even when indigenous sovereignty does not meet the expectations of imposed Western liberal models, self-governance is inherently more democratic than assimilation into the imperial hegemonic system touted by many humanitarian missionaries.
Given this principle, it is left to us to develop ways and means of transitioning to a more responsible federal and international system without neglecting the obligations incurred by the previous one–Indian treaties and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples being two primary examples.
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