Uncomfortable Truths about Sovereignty and Wealth

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How wealth and sovereignty interact is both hotly contested and misunderstood. In this writer’s view, sovereignty exists to preserve wealth for the already-wealthy. When it comes to Indigenous peoples and Indian nations, federal and state sovereigns have almost always exercised their powers to suppress tribal wealth, even a half-century after Congress turned toward tribal self-determination as guiding national policy. Federal and state sovereignty used in this manner is evidence of systemic racism.

The woman who compared GTB to an octopus wanted her township, her county, her state, and her federal government to exercise their powers and stop the GTB. She got what she wanted, in part. It took another thirteen years for the Secretary of the Interior to acquire that land in trust. It turns out octopi are intelligent and patient. Indian nations are timeless entities. Often, they can wait out their opponents, but not always.

This Article for the Roger Williams University Law Review symposium will hopefully contribute to a greater understanding of how sovereignty and wealth interact. At the symposium, this writer discussed several recent flashpoints in federal-state-tribal relations in the eastern United States.


Work published when author not on Michigan Law faculty.