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Illegitimate Sovereignty:
Tribal Government 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 wrong.

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 themselves.

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.

* The 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.

A member of the Chippewa tribe, state of Minnesota, USA, he is also a Fellow of the Salzburg Seminar.

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"Illegitimate Sovereignty: Tribal government cannot claim sovereign immunity against members!" copyright ©2007 by Wallace W. Storbakken   
The essay appears here with thanks to Wallace W. Storbakken, whose payment was less than a brass razoo.
This is part of a series of invited pieces by people I find deliciously inspiring, always a hoot, and who write like a bletted medlar tastes. A.T.
The Virtuous Medlar Circle © 2004 - 2007