Steven Newcomb: Supreme Court 'victory' adopts racist system

Steven Newcomb of the Indigenous Law Institute. Photo from Finding the Missing Link

Steven Newcomb finds language of domination used throughout the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community:
Since the majority decision in Bay Mills is being characterized by some as a big win for Indian country, one might assume that the majority opinion did not use the same racist, conceptual system of domination as the dissent does. Yet, as a matter of fact, the majority and the dissent both used the word “subjection” to characterize the relationship of the United States with Indian nations.

As the majority statement in section II of its ruling: “‘Indian tribes are ‘domestic dependent nations’” that exercise ‘inherent sovereign authority.’” However, the majority then said: “As dependents, the tribes are subject to plenary control by Congress.” Then, in their concluding paragraph, the majority repeats this thinking: “As ‘domestic dependent nations,’ Indian tribes exercise sovereignty subject to the will of the Federal Government.” (emphasis added).

The issue before the Court in the Bay Mills case was whether the state of Michigan could sue the Bay Mills Indian Community in operating an off-reservation casino, or whether Bay Mills possessed “sovereign immunity” from Michigan’s lawsuit. The majority wrote that Indian “tribes” do have “inherent sovereignty,” and further says that “sovereignty implies immunity from lawsuits.” However, the majority continues by explaining its intended meaning of the phrase “subject to the will of Congress”: “Subjection means (among much else) that Congress can abrogate that [tribal sovereign] immunity as and to the extent it wishes.” (emphasis added) In other words, the majority characterized our originally free and independent nations as “domestic dependent nations” that are deemed “subject to the will of the Federal Government.” How coincidental, then, that both the majority Kagan opinion and the Thomas dissent use the word “subjection,” and thereby acknowledge the conceptual system of domination being used against our originally free and independent nations and peoples. Domination is the correlative of subjection, and vice versa.

Get the Story:
Steven Newcomb: Supreme Court Majority Invokes Indian Nation Subjection (Indian Country Today 6/27)

Supreme Court Decision:
Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community (May 27, 2014)

Oral Arguments on the Indianz.Com SoundCloud:

Relevant Documents:
Oral Argument Transcript | Supreme Court Docket Sheet No. 12-515 | Supreme Court Order List

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