The Insidious Colonialism of the Conqueror: The Federal Government in Modern Tribal Affairs

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This Article focuses on the actions of the federal agencies that do not appear on the radar screen - often because no cause of action exists to allow the tribes to bring suit in federal court to force the government to enjoin their actions - or because federal law operates to limit tribal sovereignty. Part II of this Article discusses four case studies - the story of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians' struggle to retain its right to determine its own membership requirements; the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan's response through its tribal court of appeals to federal intervention in a tribal election dispute; the erosion of tribal rights to restore lost land and expand economic development opportunities; and the continuing impact of the Bureau's sales of Indian land without Indian consent. Part III places these case studies in the broader context of how federal bureaucratic actions have rendered meaningless critical aspects of self-determination. This portion of the Article argues that meaningful self-determination requires bureaucratic acknowledgement that Indian tribes retain the exclusive right to determine membership; that Indian tribes must be allowed to decide internal disputes without any interference from the federal government; that Indian tribes must be allowed to restore the land base to a critical mass of land for each tribe in order to allow for adequate economic development activities; and that Indian tribes retain a right to a remedy for the past violations of law of which they are a victim and that, finally, Indian tribes have a right to a competent trustee. The Article concludes in Part IV with a bleak vision, describing areas of critical tribal interest in which the federal bureaucracy is likely to maintain its paternalistic and colonial attitudes. Nevertheless, much of what ground has been lost can be regained with a simple change toward recognition of principles of self-determination on the part of the federal bureaucracy.


Work published when author not on Michigan Law faculty.