Cannot Claim Sovereign Immunity Against Members!
by Wallace W. Storbakken,
There are two distinct concepts of sovereignty, one which is
indigenous and another which is derived from the European
doctrine of the divine right of kings.
Indigenous sovereignty has from time immemorial been bestowed
upon each individual member of a tribe by the Creator. It is a
natural right that is inalienable, a right that creates the
liberty of each individual to exercise self-determination. The
other is a sovereignty bestowed upon a king, by his God, which
grants the ruler control over whichever subjects can be
compelled to obey it.
Indigenous and, more particularly, Ojibwe-Anishinabeg
sovereignty predates royal sovereignty. Historically and
traditionally, from time immemorial, Ojibwe-Anishinabeg
sovereignty has been vested in the individual members of the
tribe and not in a king. Ojibwe persons have never paid homage
to a king in the form of taxes, tribute, military service, or
unearned loyalty. The quasi-sovereign, domestic dependent*
authority exercised by Indian Reorganization Act tribal
government is derived from the non-indigenous (non-Ojibwe) royal
sovereignty of kings. This form of sovereignty also bestows the
right of sovereign-immunity in the sense that the king can do no
Indigenous Ojibwe-Anishinabeg sovereignty bestows no right of
sovereign-immunity, as the individual’s sovereignty is
inalienable. Whatever sovereignty that tribal government
proclaims to wield is of a limited nature and cannot be used
against the individuals of the tribe from which the sovereignty
is derived — for no person could rationally agree to delegate
authority to do harm to one’s self. The authority of tribal
government is constrained, to be used against foreign threats to
common tribal rights and property, and cannot claim to be
protected by a veil of sovereign-immunity for use against the
individual tribal members themselves. The members have never
delegated such immunity and have thus retained the protection to
Therefore, the tribal government can make no claim of immunity,
when wielding sovereign authority on behalf of the individual
sovereigns, against the individual sovereigns that comprise the
whole of tribal sovereignty. Not so long ago such an atrocity
would have led to either abandonment by the sovereigns, or to
decisive action on the part of the sovereigns.
domestic dependent quasi-sovereign status of indigenous
Americans is a construct thought up by
Chief Justice John Marshall in the early 1800's. It is
meant to show that Indians have somewhat sovereignty,
but that by being within the U.S. (domestic) that
sovereignty is below the sovereignty of the United States —
a matter of internal convenience for the U.S. to say that it
is the only nation-state with a claim to the expropriation
of indigenous American rights.
Wallace W. Storbakken is one of the most inspiring people I have
ever met. He is a human relations and social justice advocate,
and an activist in the best sense of the word.
member of the
Chippewa tribe, state of Minnesota, USA, he is also
a Fellow of the Salzburg Seminar.