Law | Opinion

Peter d'Errico: Briefcase warriors must defend sovereignty of the original nations






Jan Hasselman, an attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, speaks to the media outside of the federal court in Washington, D.C., on September 6, 2016. Photo by Mark Charles

What turns an ordinary attorney into a briefcase warrior for Indian Country? Retired professor Peter d'Errico says it starts with a simple goal:
The starting point for any Native litigation that deserves the name "briefcase warrior" starts with the original free and independent existence of Native Nations. And, in 21st century terms, it doesn't end until it has raised global issues—the rights of Indigenous Peoples on the world stage.

Any citation of domestic U.S. law in a Native lawsuit—if the lawyers expect to be called "briefcase warriors"—will be presented in a context of original Native independence and continuing international status.

Bad things happen in litigation supposedly on behalf of Native Nations when the lawyers start out by embracing the "domestic dependent" and "plenary power" doctrines of U.S. federal Indian law. Those doctrines—based on the concept of Christian Discovery—attack Native existence, land ownership, and jurisdiction at the roots.

Cases like Bay Mills v. Michigan—where the Indians relied on the doctrine of U.S. "supremacy" to protect Native sovereignty—may appear to be "wins" for the Indians in the short term, but are losses in the long term, because they support the doctrine that Native jurisdiction may be overturned by a vote of the U.S. Congress.

Read More on the Story:
Peter d'Errico: What Makes a Briefcase Warrior? (Indian Country Today 9/28)

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