Opinion

Steve Russell: Losing our status as 'domestic dependent nations'






The U.S. Supreme Court. Photo by Indianz.Com / Available for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Can the original nations ever shed their status as "domestic" and "dependent" in the eyes of federal Indian law and policy? Steve Russell, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, thinks Indian Country can learn some lessons from corporations and take the fight to the U.S. Supreme Court:
Indian nations are part of the federalism puzzle that is U.S. government. What authority governs which decisions? Who regulates business? Marriage and divorce and child custody? Who can protect traditional spiritual practices?

Our autonomy—the content of the meme “sovereignty”—depends politically on public opinion remaining at least neutral on Indian self-government. The legal attack on sovereignty is based on Fourteenth Amendment equal protection, and claims that any law or policy that works to the advantage of Indians is a race-based privilege that disadvantages white people. This is a powerful argument.

The average American is innocent of the distinction between Indian as race and Indian as dual citizenship in a tribal nation. Those of us who hold dual citizenship need to explain it in political rather than racial terms every chance we get.

Growing up with an Indian identity in the modern United States sometimes feels like all stereotype, all the time. We get weary. But in spite of K-12 education pushing the seamy side of Indian policy down the memory hole, parts of the stereotype work to our advantage.

Read More on the Story:
Steve Russell: Institutional Change II: Domestic, Dependent Nations Lose Rights (Indian Country Media Network 3/25)

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Steve Russell: Domestic status of Indian nations invented in 1831 (3/21)