It's not just identity, language, and song. It's about fundamental well-being and community, which includes economics.


The Bonds Of Colonialism

“They [Indians] are in a state of pupilage; their relation to the United States resembles that of a ward to his guardian.”
Chief Justice John Marshall, 1831

These words of John Marshall in the 1831 Supreme Court opinion on Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia stand in stark contrast to Chief Joseph’s appeal to “be a free man, free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade where I choose, free to choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to talk, think and act for myself.” The dissent of Justices William Johnson and Smith Thompson are even more demeaning than Marshall’s ruling. They doubted that tribes could be elevated to the status of nations because Indians were “so low in the grade of organized society.”

Though people today would abhor the idea that any group of Americans would be treated as wards of the state, that is precisely what Marshall’s ruling and subsequent laws have made American Indians. On reservations, where tribal governments are supposed to be sovereign, persistent colonial institutions have subjected Native Americans to incomplete property rights, weak governance structures, and dependency on appropriations from the U.S. government…

Defining Ideas • April 26, 2019

Wendy Purnell