Why do Indian reservations still exist in North America?

  • Both Canada and the US still have weird quasi-states on their territory for citizens of Native American/First Nation origins. However in the 21st century this appears to be quite an archaic concept, since in theory there shouldn't be any more areas restricted to members of a certain race or ethnicity.

    So why do these Indian reservations still exist in North America? Are there any plans to reform them into regular villages/towns/cities without a special status?

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    Just a quick note: while the name is often the source of a bit of confusion, _First Nations_ isn't an umbrella term for all native tribes, but a specific group of indigenous peoples.

    "...in the 21st century this appears to be quite an archaic concept, since in theory there shouldn't be any more areas restricted to members of a certain race or ethnicity. " One could maybe see it as a separate nation, a quasi-country within another country. Citizenship based on inheritance is actually not outdated in the 21st century, otherwise there wouldn't be any borders at all.

  • ceejayoz

    ceejayoz Correct answer

    3 years ago

    However in the 21st century this appears to be quite an archaic concept, since in theory all citizens are supposed to be equal rather than receiving certain privileges simply because of their race or ethnicity.

    All citizens of a nation, perhaps - and this is by no means a universally held or implemented belief. (Just ask Saudi women, people under 18, Arab Israelis, etc.)

    The fundamental status of federally-recognized Native American tribes is that of a separate nation ("domestic dependent nations", i.e. with exceptions; see below), and hence, we US citizens don't get to demand the rights of another nation, just like I can't demand to vote in Mexico.

    Per the US Bureau of Indian Affairs:

    The relationship between federally recognized tribes and the United States is one between sovereigns, i.e., between a government and a government. This “government-to-government” principle, which is grounded in the United States Constitution, has helped to shape the long history of relations between the federal government and these tribal nations.

    Tribes possess all powers of self-government except those relinquished under treaty with the United States, those that Congress has expressly extinguished, and those that federal courts have ruled are subject to existing federal law or are inconsistent with overriding national policies. Tribes, therefore, possess the right to form their own governments; to make and enforce laws, both civil and criminal; to tax; to establish and determine membership (i.e., tribal citizenship); to license and regulate activities within their jurisdiction; to zone; and to exclude persons from tribal lands.

    Limitations on inherent tribal powers of self-government are few, but do include the same limitations applicable to states, e.g., neither tribes nor states have the power to make war, engage in foreign relations, or print and issue currency.

    They continue to exist for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to:

    • They want to continue to exist.
    • The government and courts have recognized their right to exist.
    • The federal government has little interest in a small-and-short-but-violent civil war.

    This is of course a particular use of "sovereign". A sovereign might bind itself by treaty, by a sovereign is not bound by another government's Congress or courts.

    Interesting note here about the US constitution and treaties with Indian nations: Article 2, Section 2, Clause 2. The 1871 Indian Appropriate Act "closed" the issue and prevented any future recognition of Indian nations (not already recognized) or future treaties.

    The BIA quote is classic doublespeak, and the practice goes way back. Reservations are not sovereign, although they have limited sovereignity. For instance, the reference to "those (powers) that Congress has expressly extinguished" is neither more nor less than a tacit admission that the tribes are not sovereign. A nation which has its powers controlled by another nation is not sovereign. Sovereignity is "the authority of a state to govern itself or another state." If governed, even in part, by another state, it is not (without qualification) sovereign.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM