Center for World Indigenous Studies
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Essential Allies

Published: November 19, 2008, Author: JayTaber

The origins, and continuity, of American Indian rights to self-government are not well-understood, but are extremely important to contemporary American Indian communities. …Most Indian communities derive their social and political institutions from creation teachings. …not necessarily out of nothing as in the Christian world origin teachings, but creates a new order and purpose out of existing elements such as land and water. The world is set in order so that the people can live and maintain relations with the plants, animals and cosmic powers in the universe. …

The roots of American Indian self-government autonomy [as such] do not derive from American law or from treaties, but precede the treaties and the formation of the U.S. Constitution. American Indian nations are not parties to the U.S. Constitution, and therefore not part of the original consensus that is American government.

When Indian nations negotiated treaties with European colonies and later the United States, the Indian nations assumed positions of political and government independence. When Indian nations negotiated treaties recognizing U.S. dominion starting in the 1790s, the tribes were not agreeing to U.S. powers over culture and government, but instead were agreeing to become allies to the United States against other foreign colonial powers such as the British, French, Russians and Spanish. In these agreements, the Indian nations retained powers of self-government that are recognized by the United States to have existed from time immemorial. The Indian nations are giving up a right to negotiate with foreign European colonial powers, and in return, the United States provides protection to the Indian allies against foreign invasion. …

Today there is much talk about tribal sovereignty; but while the term is used as legal means to protect jurisdictions of Indian nations and other rights, it is not a term that is easily translated to Indian communities from its European origins of centralized political organization based around the divine right and powers of European kings. …

Indian communities maintain commitments to kinship and culture that do not reflect the way of government of the United States, but often are guided by the values and visions of tribal ancestors and teachings. Self-government and the roots of American Indian national autonomy originate and remain grounded within the values and cultures of Indian communities.

(Thanks to Indian Country Today for this excerpt. The link, unfortunately is no longer valid.)

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