Peter d'Errico: Religion plays a role in anti-Indian court rulings

"The ugly face of the 1955 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Tee-Hit-Ton v U.S. appeared recently in Plymouth County (MA) Superior Court, in Greene v. Pacheco, et al., a case challenging interference by the Town of Mattapoisett with Mashpee Wampanoag fishing rights.

Here’s the quote: “‘Aboriginal rights’ are those derived from the ‘legal theory that discovery and conquest gave the conquerors sovereignty over and ownership of the lands thus obtained’ with the preservation of permissive right to use and occupy granted to the Native Americans.”

Tee-Hit-Ton is ugly because it stands for the proposition that Indigenous peoples have no basic land rights. The case says Indians have only a “permissive right” to live on their own lands, and that the government may take Indian property at will and without compensation. The Court said the U.S. did not need the consent of the Tee-Hit-Ton in order to take their timber, and owed nothing to them for taking it, despite the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights, which says the federal government must pay “just compensation” if it wants to take property."

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Peter d'Errico: Separation of Church and State? Not When Indians are Concerned (Indian Country Today 9/7)

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