Law | Opinion

Ned Blackhawk: Supreme Court case jeopardizes tribal rights






A view of the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo by Indianz.Com

Professor Ned Blackhawk, a member of the Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone, takes a closer look at Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, a tribal jurisdiction case that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court:
On Dec. 7, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in a case regarding alleged sexual assaults by a Dollar General manager against a tribal minor, a 13-year-old who apprenticed in a store on Choctaw tribal lands in Mississippi. While working in partnership with non-Indians remains an important part of what tribal governments do, ensuring the welfare of tribal members is an essential function of their power. This case has the potential to undermine the authority of tribes to do both.

In keeping with the fraught legal and political relationship between Indians and the federal government, this case, Dollar General v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, is deeply rooted in our shared history. And as its focus has expanded, it is no longer exclusively about the child who was originally at its center.

Since its inception, the United States government has recognized that tribal governments have authority over their lands, their members and, in certain situations, those who enter their territories. This recognition is rooted in the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, in nearly two centuries of Supreme Court rulings and, crucially, in generations of customary practices between tribes and their neighbors. By asserting that tribes, despite generations of these partnerships with non-Indians, lack jurisdiction over businesses in Indian country, Dollar General is challenging this historic principle of American law.

Get the Story:
Ned Blackhawk: The Struggle for Justice on Tribal Lands (The New York Times 11/25)

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