American Indians as Sovereign Nations / by kevin murray

Not every American Indian lives on land that is considered to be owned and governed by American Indians as separate sovereign nations within the United States, but a substantial amount of American Indians do so.  The entire concept that within America, there are sovereign nations, governing themselves is absolutely fascinating, until you peel back the curtain and quickly recognize that American Indians are at best quasi-sovereign nations, and at worst, live under the illusion that they are sovereign nations when in fact, when push comes to shove, they will find, as they almost have always found, that the "white man" makes and asserts the law to the white man's benefit, no matter what a certain treaty, law, or tradition may or may not say.  That is a shame, and to the discredit of America, since in virtually every instance, the American Indian, has been given a raw deal, a broken deal, and a trail of tears from their fellow countrymen, again and again and again.


Truly the American Indian's tale is a tale of woe, to which in aggregate, American Indians and Alaska natives, as reported by have almost 12 percent of their deaths that are considered to be alcohol related.  Additionally, according to American Indians and Alaska natives have the highest percentage of people that are living beneath the poverty line.  The only real thing of substance that American Indians have been able to salvage since the discovery and subsequent conquering of America by Europeans is that they own a substantial amount of land as sovereign nations.  As one might expect, most of the land that is set aside as sovereign nations for American Indian tribes is land that the government thought to be of little worth in the first place, but as time has gone by, in numerous instances American Indians have discovered that their land has value in its mineral wealth, its waters, or as a gambling empire.  Not too surprisingly, when there is money to be made, or wealth to be exploited, the American government or free enterprise have a great desire to get their hands on it.  That, as you may say, is the true test of true sovereignty.


How much sovereignty that an American Indian really has as a sovereign nation, has an awful lot to do with whom the dispute is with.  That is to say, when that dispute is with a major multi-national corporation or government agency with the best legal counsel that money can entice, American Indians will often find out that their sovereignty will be essentially lost without their own access to expert legal counsel to setup a well-orchestrated defense of their sovereignty, or in lieu of that they will need a lot of sympathetic media play.  The following statement by the Federal District Court of Montana in 1973 said that ”The blunt fact, however, is that an Indian tribe is sovereign to the extent that the United States permits it to be sovereign,"  which means according to this court, that any belief that American Indians have that they are sovereign is, in essence, nothing but a pipedream.


In fairness to American Indians, in fairness to the concept of sovereign nations within America, a line should be drawn in the sand, clearly delineating once and for all what rights a sovereign nation does or does not have within America.  The Supreme Court, itself, can't seem to make up its mind as to whether American Indians have sovereign rights that predate the European's discovery of America or whether instead they are subject to the dictates of Congress per Article 1, Section 8, of our Constitution.  At the least, we owe the American Indians, a fair deal, that takes into account our previous failures to abide by treaties time and time again, because a country that will not respect its own law, that will not obey its own word, is a country that no man shall have to respect, and isn’t the country that God would shed his grace upon.