For Indians, Sovereignty Fight Rages On

Indian activists say it is a mistake to look for common threads throughout the various cases currently being fought — from the Passamaquoddy of Maine, who have refused to turn over tribal water quality reports to the state because they say federal authorities have jurisdiction, not the state; to the Miccosukee in Florida, who object to state prosecution of one of their members on murder charges; to the Pomo of California, who are facing a challenge of their right to open a casino less than a half hour from San Francisco.

Of course the specifics vary, including the groundwork laid out in the treaties each tribe signed with the government, but it is hard not to see them all in terms of sovereignty issues.

"The American Indian's only hope for sovereignty is Treaty Law," wrote Russell Means in a letter to the Navajo News last summer. "I want to take this one step further, all Nations with Treaties have to agree with the U.S. Government that they have broken the Treaties. The U.S. has not and will not live up to them. Therefore, we need to reassert our legal position in Constitutional Law and International Law. That position means, when one Nation who is a party to the Treaty unilaterally breaks that Treaty, the other Nations involved revert to the legal status they held prior to the Treaty. Welcome to FREEDOM!"

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