The Insidious Colonialism of the Conqueror: The Federal Government in Modern Tribal Affairs


This Article focuses on the actions of federal agencies that often do not appear on the radar screen, either because no existing cause of action allows the tribes to bring suit in federal court to enjoin the government’s actions, or because federal law limits tribal sovereignty. Part II of this Article discusses four case studies: the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians’ struggle to retain its right to determine its own membership requirements; the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan’s response through its tribal court of appeals to federal intervention in a tribal election dispute; the erosion of tribal rights to restore lost land and expand economic development opportunities; and the continuing impact of the Bureau’s sale of Indian land without Indian consent. Part III places these case studies in the broader context of how federal bureaucratic actions have rendered meaningless critical aspects of self-determination. This portion of the Article argues that meaningful self-determination requires bureaucratic acknowledgement of Indian tribes’ exclusive right to determine membership; that Indian tribes must be allowed to decide internal disputes without any interference from the federal government; that Indian tribes must be allowed to restore the land base to a critical mass for each tribe in order to allow for adequate economic development activities; that Indian tribes retain a right to a remedy for the past violations of law of which they are a victim; and that, finally, Indian tribes have a right to a competent trustee. The Article concludes in Part IV with a bleak vision, describing areas of critical tribal interest in which the federal bureaucracy is likely to maintain its paternalistic attitudes. Nevertheless, much of what ground has been lost can be regained with a simple change toward recognition of principles of self-determination on the part of the federal bureaucracy.


Colonies, Indians of North America -- Sovereignty



Matthew L. M. Fletcher (University of North Dakota School of Law)



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