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Law and Order, American Indians Need Not Apply

Just Us?
Just Us?
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Law and order, it's what separates a civilized nation from a dictatorship or banana republic. It's what allows a nation to rise above fiefdom and feudalism. The equal application of laws is a lynchpin towards justice for all mankind. However, the search for this equal application has proved to be something of a search for bigfoot for those in Indian Country. That we could find justice in America has been one of the greatest lies ever told to Indians. There is no law, and there certainly is no order, in Indian Country.

The proper place to begin any discussion of laws in America is treaty law, the highest law of the land according to the United States' Constitution. Treaty law establishes among other things, the boundaries of the reservations and homelands reserved for Indians, along with other considerations given in exchange for huge tracts of land surrenders. And yet to this day it isn't hard to find where these boundaries are still ignored and violated. Just ask any Lakota about White Clay Nebraska. Recently in the news has been that Riverton, Wyoming is now to be recognized as Indian land after over a hundred years of simply ignoring this fact. The local non-Indian residents are literally up in arms over this development. Some years ago, a 199 year lease of Indian land ended in New York state. By listening to the local non-Indian residents, you'd have thought the world was coming to an end, what with the law actually being observed and all. There were open and public declarations, even advertisements on the radio challenging the legal handover of land back to Indian control. How dare those Indians expect the law to apply to them.

And what of the individual Aboriginal in this country? How does the law treat him or her? Ask Leonard Peltier, wrongfully convicted of some mystery crime and imprisoned now some 38 years. Even if you have some twisted idea of justice and believe him guilty, Mr. Peltier has served a sentence far in excess of sentencing guidelines. This American Indian Nelson Mandela continues to languish behind bars for simply being an Indian willing to defend treaty law. Yes America, we do have political prisoners in this country, and most of them are Indian.

Or we could ask Patricia SpottedCrow, an Oklahoma resident and mother sentenced to twelve years in prison for a first time offense of selling $31 worth of marijuana. To be honest, this entire writing could focus on American Indian sentencing disparities, but I'll simply close this section with a few more names worth Googling: Manuel Redwoman and Eddie Hatcher. Being an Indian in America means being presumed guilty until proven innocent. It's what we call Aboriginal sin, being born an American Indian in the modern age.

Lastly, we can explore what happens when a law is passed ostensibly to protect American Indians. The Indian Child Welfare Act was passed to stop the wholesale taking, buying and selling of American Indian children. Ask yourself why would such an act even need to be passed in America in 1978? Despite this law's best intentions, so-called Christian adoption agencies and some states have found the law to be toothless and defy it at will. American Indian children are being trafficked by adoption agencies and states like South Dakota as though they were chattel. Here. In America. Now.

It's an old axiom that an oppressor uses laws to justify oppression. When the oppressed learns these laws in order to defend himself, the oppressor simply changes the law. Thusly, justice continues to be an abstract concept for tribal nations and their citizens. If justice is blind then there must be some hole in that blindfold because there has never been real justice for any Indian since contact with Europeans. Going forward it remains a question for America, what is true justice and who does it apply to? For now, from an Indian perspective, there is no law, and there certainly is no order.