Steven Newcomb has an excellent column up at ICTMN, examining the claim to Očeti Sakowiŋ.
We are able to think back to a time when our ancestors were living entirely free from and independent of ideas developed across the Atlantic Ocean in a place called Christendom. We know that our Native ancestors were in no way subject to Christian ideas before the Christians sailed across that ocean to our part of the world, which many of us know as Turtle Island. Because the Christian Europeans were not physically here on Turtle Island, their concepts, ideas, and arguments were not here either. This leaves us with a mystery. On what basis did the invading colonizers first assume that our free nations and our ancestors were subject to the ideas and arguments of the Christian world? To what extent are those ideas still being used today centuries later by the United States?
In his Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, published in 1833, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story asked a related question. He asked how the British Colonies got title to the soil of the North American continent. His question not only assumed that the British colonies had title to the soil of the continent, it also assumed, as Story said, that the colonizing powers obtained a “title” by their own “assertion” that they had a “complete title” to and “absolute dominion” over the soil of what from our ancestors’ perspective was the soil of our national territories. Story traced those ideas back to a papal bull of the fifteenth century and to royal charters of England and Great Britain.
Most people fail to realize that men such as Joseph Story and John Marshall spent a great deal of their time thinking about such matters. They did so because they had to develop a rationale for asserting that the Christian colonizers from Europe had a right to the soil of the continent that was superior to whatever right our original nations and our ancestors thought they had. Men of ideas such as Story and Marshall, whose job it was to persuade, undoubtedly knew there was a slight chance that someday in the distant future, we, the descendants of our Native ancestors, might try to go back through the record of the ideas of the colonizers and trace their mental “steps.”
A few of us have been working for decades on that retrospective with the goal in mind of not only understanding but of also now at long last directly challenging the ideas and arguments that were “laid down” by the ancestors of the colonizing society who sailed to Turtle Island from Western Christendom.
Based on decades of intensive and diligent research, we now know that the Christian European thinkers dreamed up out of their heads the idea that the representatives of Christendom could enter someone else’s country and mentally, verbally, and ceremonially make the assertion that the monarch they represented had an “absolute dominion” over the country they had located by ship. They further assumed that their mental, verbal, and ceremonial assertion would become “true” because the Christian thinkers dreamed it up in their minds and treated it as “true” thereby sustaining it over time.
The idea that they as colonizers had a complete title to and absolute dominion over the soil of the territories of our Original Nations, a point that Story, Marshall, and other white men claimed on behalf of the United States, became “true” and a “reality” for the colonizers and for the United States simply because those ideas were collectively treated as “true” and as a “reality.” Since this was all happening in the colonizers’ own language at the time, when such assertions were initially made, our ancestors had no understanding of the specific nature of the colonizers’ bizarre views. Some of our ancestors such as Tecumseh did try to challenge the colonizers’ thinking based on the original free existence of our nations.
The recent controversy over the Dakota Access Pipeline traces back to that process of reality-construction and the ability of the United States government to simply declare a given reality into existence. But there is something rather surprising in the historical record that most people know nothing about. It is surprising because it is language that still ought to be benefiting Native nations. …
The full column is here, and it’s excellent reading.