Steven Newcomb: Refuting notion of domination in Indian law

"Ever since I read Malcolm X’s story, I have spent countless hours reading dictionaries. By doing so, I am constantly finding new features of the English language I had not previously noticed. Dictionaries enable us to delve deeply into the meaning of key words. Take the word civilization for example. One definition is “the act of civilizing; esp the forcing of a particular cultural pattern on a population to whom it is foreign.” The word forcing lets us know that this is just another word for the domination of the said “population.”

Or, take the word aborigine. It is defined as “one of the native people especially as contrasted with an invading or colonizing people.” Thus, the latecomer society’s domination by invading and colonizing is as the background context for the word aborigine. Aboriginal is the adjective formed from aborigine. Thus, in keeping with the definition of aborigine, aboriginal title is that form of title as distinguished from the title claimed by an invading or colonizing (dominating) people.

In U.S. federal Indian law, the title of those original nations and peoples on the receiving end of the invading and colonizing is defined as an “aboriginal” title of “mere occupancy.” The word “mere” means “only.” Thus, from the point of view of the dominating society, “aboriginal title” of “the aborigines” is only a title of “temporary occupancy” as distinguished from the title of “the Dominator” (“the Sovereign”)."

Get the Story:
Steven Newcomb: A Is for Aardvark: A Is for Aborigine (Indian Country Today 2/16)

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