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Opinion
Steven Newcomb: How not to fix U.S. Indian policy


"In his guest column, “How to fix U.S. tribal policy,” Francis G. Hutchins presents his own particular take on the history of U.S.-Indian policy since the beginning of the United States. (At one time, Mr. Hutchins was an expert witness for the Town of Mashpee, Mass., and therefore in opposition to the Mashpee Indians). However, despite his promising title, Mr. Hutchins does not suggest any specific way to “fix” U.S. Indian policy, other than by adopting his states’ rights philosophy and historical perspective.

Deftly written, Hutchins’ article contains a subtext of assimilation, albeit argued in the measured tone of supposedly “well-reasoned” discourse.

After presenting the reader with his version of history, Mr. Hutchins says that the result of the 2008 election makes “more imaginable a new approach to tribal issues.” The approach he has in mind is “a revised tribal paradigm” that, he acknowledges, “cannot become law anytime soon.”

The alternative political framework that Mr. Hutchins advocates is one in which Indian nations (which he refers to as “tribes” and “groups”) become further subject to both state and federal regulation. His ideal scenario is one in which state-federal arrangements are made that separate “responsibility for ‘Indian’ regulation between states and the federal government.”

Such regulatory arrangements ought to be constructed, Mr. Hutchins suggests, “within the parameters of our still-evolving Constitution, the indispensable basis of a national community including all Americans on a basis of legal equality.” In this last sentence, we find the familiar phrasing and rhetoric of the Anti-Indian movement, one that claims that Indian rights must be the same as individual civil rights in order to be “equal.” The way he phrases this argument is by saying that Indian people ought to learn to exist as “Americans” on “a basis of legal equality.” Mr. Hutchins’ refusal to acknowledge the collective rights of Indian nations is an old Anti-Indian “melting pot” position that he is proposing as a new “fix.”"

Get the Story:
Steven Newcomb: How not to fix U.S. Indian policy (Indian Country Today 12/23)

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