Weekend Reading: Unmasking treaty signers; key treaty rights case goes to U.S. Supreme Court and more

In this blog:

  • Treaty Signers Project website launched (Indian Land Tenure Foundation)
  • Can Congress Void a Tribal Treaty Without Telling Anyone? (The Atlantic)
  • Thousands march in Minneapolis to protest violence against American Indian women (MPR)
  • Can we protect nature by giving it legal rights? (MinnPost)

Treaty Signers Project website launched

The Indian Land Tenure Foundation has launched a website to expose who negotiated treaties on behalf of the U.S. government and how those treaty negotiators benefited. According to the Foundation:

Over the course of 90 years, the US acquired the resources of a continent. Treaties with indigenous nations were essential events in this remarkable growth. What motivated such aggressive expansion, and who benefitted from it most directly?…

The treatysigners.org website presents information on hundreds of U.S. treaty signers and on the business, family and social networks that connected them. It also provides basic information on each of nearly 400 treaties, plus stories that show why knowing who signed the treaties is important.

The website also provides background information on many of the Indigenous treaty signers.

Another valuable resource on white treaty and how they personally benefited from treaties is Marty Case’s 2018 book: The Relentless Business of Treaties: How Indigenous Land became U.S. Property.

Can Congress Void a Tribal Treaty Without Telling Anyone?

An article in The Atlantic explores the pending decision in the U.S. Supreme Court case Herrera v. Wyoming:

Herrera v. Wyoming, an Indian treaty-rights case argued in the Supreme Court last Tuesday, revolves around a basic of federal Indian law: No promise to Indian people actually binds the United States. Congress can unilaterally void any treaty or agreement. The only limit on this power so far has been a requirement that Congress say it is doing so. It is not supposed to act by “implication.” …

The formal issue in Herrera is the conviction of a Crow tribal member for hunting elk out of season. The underlying issue is whether a treaty with the Crow tribe of Montana remains in force, or whether Congress junked it without telling anyone. …

Despite its low media profile, Herrera has been very closely watched in Indian country. The stakes are high for federal land management, for states, for tribes, and for hunters, Indian and non-Indian alike.

The article’s a sad read about the ways the United States has decided it can break treaties. It also gives a helpful analysis of the thinking of some of the current Supreme Court members.

Thousands march in Minneapolis to protest violence against American Indian women

People pack the Minneapolis American Indian Center ahead of the MMIW March.

The annual Minneapolis Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women’s march on Valentine’s day had a great turnout, with several thousand turning out to walk in cold temperatures. Among the numerous news stories, here’s MPR’s coverage:

Over 2,000 people marched through south Minneapolis in frigid temperatures Friday to call attention to the thousands of American Indian women who go missing or are killed in the United States each year.

Studies have shown that American Indian women are victims of violence or homicide at much higher rates than other women. Jalisa Glynn, who has Ho Chunk ancestry, said it’s empowering to see so many people recognizing that the treatment of indigenous women needs to be addressed.

“I come here and I usually get emotional,” Glynn said. “The emotions come from a place of being happy that we’re all together, but also heartbreaking that it’s going on.”

Can we protect nature by giving it legal rights?

A Duluth group is exploring how to protect the Gichigami-ziibi, or the the St. Louis River estuary, by giving nature legal rights, according to an article in Ensia and reprinted in MinnPost.

The St. Louis River is “rich in biodiversity” and also “rich in challenges,” the article said. Decades ago, U.S. Steel left behind a massive Superfund site, “where it’s still not safe to eat the fish or swim in the water.” Large sums of money are flowing to help restore the site while new threats loom: a proposed copper-nickel mine and the proposed Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline that would pose ongoing spill threats.

In August 2019, a group of citizens met in Duluth to learn about an unconventional strategy that could protect this place and potentially change its story going forward. Rights of Nature is a growing international movement that recognizes species and ecosystems not simply as resources for humans to use, but as living entities with rights of their own.

Click on the link for more details.

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