New Scholarship on American Indian Land Reform

Richael Faithful has posted “An Idea of American Indian Land Justice: Examining Native Land Liberation in the New Progressive Era” on SSRN, forthcoming in the National Lawyers Guild Law Review. Here is the abstract:

This article is inspired by Professor Robert Odawi Porter’s remarks during the 2009 D.C. Federal Indian Bar conference in which he outlined a seemingly radical proposal for “land liberation” for American Indian tribes – the abandonment of United States trusteeship over tribal land, and return of title and associated rights to numerous tribes who have lost their land due to nefarious governmental policies and bad deals. In an effort to bridge Porter’s visionary legal viewpoint with renowned economist and philosopher, Amartya Sen’s recent visionary contribution on justice, An Idea of American Indian Land Justice, helps revive an Indian law, critical studies tradition calling for greater tribal sovereignty, but in a new light, however, that examines a global political climate that embraces the human rights mantle to one degree or another. This article tries to illuminate two liberationist outlooks to scrutinize a legal proposal by a leading mind in Indian law that also has wide-reaching implications for other movements, struggles, and communities across the world.

2 thoughts on “New Scholarship on American Indian Land Reform

  1. Edward J. Dodson December 20, 2010 / 8:16 pm

    All history is filled with the stories of how one group or nation of people used force and fraud to displace other people from the lifegiving territory they inhabited. This process already was underway in the Western Hemisphere before Europeans arrived in superior numbers equipped with superior weaponry (and carrying diseases against which the peoples they encountered had no resistance). In another history’s ironies, many of those who came from European societies had themselves been driven off the land they and their forefathers had lived on for long periods. And, of course, there are those who were not only driven from the land but then enslaved, the fruits of their labor taken to allow a landed class to live without having to labor.

    So, what is to be done? What principle of justice ought to be introduced? Truly, justice requires that the earth be embraced as the common heritage of all persons equally. By what right has any individual or any group of individuals or any nation of people really to claim sovereign control over a given portion of the earth? The so-called “right of first occupancy?” The right of ownership by conquest? The right of purchase , when the legitimate authority to sell territory cannot be supported under any moral sense of right and wrong?

    We are — and our laws ought to ensure that we are — stewards of the earth, tenants who (as Thomas Paine declared in his pamphlet Agrarian Justice) owe to the community a ground rent for the privilege we enjoy whenever we are granted exclusive use to any portion of the earth, whether this is a parcel of land beneath our residence, acres of land that can be cultivated with crops, lands beneath which nature has provided resources for our exploitation, or other economic use.

    That, in any event, is what history and the study of moral principles has taught me.

  2. Malcolm Benally December 21, 2010 / 1:20 am

    The approach of using land liberation is visionary, but will be very difficult to make significant changes on Navajo lands. Alot of traditional beliefs about land use have been reduced to enteryaining taboos, so educating people will take a lot of work.

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