"Tribes" and Nations

Craven, Jim jcraven at clark.edu
Mon Feb 25 09:45:57 MST 2002

It is not a small or insignficant distinction between "Tribes" and
"Nations". It is not a mere coincidence that the major colonizing powers of
Indigenous Nations sought to summarily declare/impose "citizenship" of the
colonizing powers on Indigenous Peoples in the early 1920s. It was after
World War I and there was talk of War Crimes trials against the Germans and
Turks for crimes against humanity and crimes against groups within their
national borders; that idea was dropped when the moral and legal
vulnerabilities of the winners--for their own crimes against minority and
Indigenous Nations within their borders--became quite obvious.

The response was to attempt to summarily declare Indigenous Peoples
"citizens" and thus remove any protections/applications of emerging
international law for the oppressed and plundered Indigenous Nations.
Furthermore, it was noted explicitly in the literature of the times that
"Tribes" have no satus or protections under international law as separate
entities whereas "nations" do.

There is no Cherokee "Tribe", but there remains a Cherokee "nation" composed
of several "Tribes" in North Carolina, Georgia, Oklahoma and elsewhere.
Among Blackfoot we have a Blackfoot "Tribe" or Band (Siksika) of the
Blackfoot or Piikani nation. In some cases whole "Tribes" were wiped out
such that what remains of a former nation, and now functioning as a nation,
are former Tribes of a broader nation.

This is not merely a matter of semantics; there are broad and profound
implications in international law; the last refuge--along with constant
struggle--for nations and tribes suffering extermination daily through all
sorts of forms of "infected blankets."

Jim Craven

James Craven
Professor and Consultant, Economics
Clark College, 1800 E. McLoughlin Blvd.
Vancouver, WA. 98663
(360) 992-2283; Fax: (360) 992-2863
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