American Indian Tribes in the United States: A Strange Situation


  • Thomas Brasdefer Louisiana State University


Even though the opinion of Chief Justice John Marshall in Cherokee v. Georgia is nearly 200 years old, itremains a strong influence on making indigenous policy to this day. For over a century, Democrat andRepublican legislators alike - at the federal and the state level - have thought of American Indian peoplesas “domestic dependent nations.” This definition was used as a pretext to displace, separate andeliminate indigenous identity altogether until civil rights movements of the middle twentieth centurycaused a shift in policy. However, the political framework and discourse established during these yearsas remained pervasive in dealing with American Indian tribes, most of whom are struggling to establish(or re-establish) their autonomy in the contemporary world.

This paper examines the place of indigenous peoples in the United States, with a special emphasison the legalities of the issue. Starting with the geographical implications of reservation, removal andtermination policies, we take a look at how they can be directly related to the dire situation we knowtoday. With support from geopolitical theories, we in turn examine the current issues in Indian countrysuch as land restoration, membership or citizenship issues as well as cultural preservation for attemptsto solve the question of what it means to be an Indian in the twenty-first century, and how to put NativeAmerica back on the map.


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