Saturday, April 8, 2017

Tohono O'odham Constitution & Sovereignty

I was surprised, when reading the Tohono O’odham Constitution, to find that there were so many instances where the tribe had to defer to the United States government. As a sovereign group that is supposed to be largely independent from the federal government, I was disappointed to find that the US government was still exerting so much control, especially considering how poorly it has treated Native American groups in the past. 

Specifically, one of the worst instances of this overreach by the US government can be found in Article XXII of the Tohono O’odham Constitution; essentially, no amendments can be made to the tribal constitution without the Secretary of the Interior’s direct approval. The constitution states that the very election for a proposed amendment has to be called for by the Secretary of the Interior. Furthermore, even if an amendment were voted for unanimously, the Secretary of the Interior still has to approve it; in the end, the US government has the final say of what goes into the Tohono O’odham Constitution, essentially stripping the tribe of their sovereignty. I wonder if there is any way for this to be fixed—an amendment would be a good start; however, t would obviously have to go through the US government, so there doesn’t seem to be much hope. I’m interested to see how this will progress.

1 comment:

  1. Yes. Good point. "Domestic dependent nation" is a very limited form of sovereignty. Congress has final say on pretty much everything. This is not necessarily how an outside observer would view things if they just read treaties, but that is the prominent view of courts under federal law. That said, tribes can gain sovereignty by practicing it and in principle achieve a similar level as US states.