With Tink Tinker and Glenn Morris. ‘Sovereignty’ is a eurochristian concept that has often been used in relation to American Indians during colonization. Historically, early contact with eurochristians took place within gift economies that were interconnected through trade throughout Turtle Island (what eurochristians call, “North America”). Through the legal fiction of the “Doctrine of Christian Discovery / Domination,” Indigenous Peoples became, in the eurochristian imagination, “subjects” to Christian Princes.
By the time of the American Revolution, various Indian Nations maintained international treaty relationships with the British, French, and later U.S. governments. As the U.S. government’s aspirations to empire unfolded throughout the 19th century, particularly following the Monroe Doctrine and Johnson v. M’Intosh in 1823, U.S.-Indian relations moved from the Department of War to the Department if the Interior. John Marshall would eventually tweak previous legal fictions to regard Indian Nations as “domestic dependent nations.”
Following the creation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and various reservations following Indian Removal, as well as the end of treaty-making after 1870, the U.S. government increasingly used terminology of “tribes” to minimize previous international status. Plans to “civilize” and “assimilate” Indians initiated genocidal institutions such as compulsory boarding schools. All along, Christian missionaries were integral to these endeavors. Because the U.S. government has never upheld the various treaties it made with separate Nations, it sought to “legally” and genocidally dissolve them — through allotment, land encroachment, and “termination” policies throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries. The “exceptional” space of the Indian reservation would be picked up by National Socialist lawyers as precedents for concentration camps.
Various efforts have been made by American Indians seeking international recognition at the League of