Ann Tweedy on Indian People and the Right to Self-Defense

Ann Tweedy has posted “How the Tentacles of America’s Racialized History Eviscerate Indian Tribes’ Right to Self-Defense” on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

This article looks at tribal actions of defending their homelands in colonial and early American history and argues that their actions in self-defense were popularly perceived as acts of aggression, which in turn led to their being defined as ignoble savages in caselaw and in society generally. This imputation of savagery continues to harm tribes because, as the scholar Robert Williams has argued, the cases defining them as “savages” and denigrating their sovereign rights are still cited to support abrogations of tribal sovereignty. Thus, although the language of savagery usually is not itself cited, the cases, and the racialized ideas that they embody, which can be traced to tribes’ early acts of self-defense, continue to be used against tribes.

The article first examines historical evidence of tribes engaging in acts of self-defense in order to expose the fallacy of the portrayal of tribes as savages. It then examines the use of the imagery of savagism in Supreme Court and other caselaw and discusses recent cases that rely on the earlier cases containing this imagery and that abrogate tribal rights. The goal is to expose the popular understanding of tribal roles in early American history as erroneous and thereby reveal the baselessness of the language of savagery. This, in turn, brings to light the injustice of continuing to rely on cases that portray tribes as savages. Once this racism comes to be more widely understood and these racialized precedents are rejected, the older cases will no longer be used in contemporary opinions to deprive tribes of their remaining sovereign rights. Thus, tribes will no longer be punished for past acts of self-defense.

I’ve had a chance to read an earlier draft of this paper. Very interesting!