Tribal and Clan Based Law

Two great posts on Tribal Law below. In short, “Tribal Law,” as we think of it today, is largely a BIA/Anglo style court system that has further undermined and destroyed our traditional forms of tribal and clan based dispute mediation and justice. These Tribal Government run institutions are alien to Native people, and further the colonization of our minds and spirits.

The Development of the Indian Court System

The federal tribal lands allotment policy considerably increased the need for the CFR courts. In order to break up the traditional family groupings on many reservations (in the hopes of forcing rapid integration into Anglo society), allotments were deliberately mixed so that family members might have their lands scattered all over the reservations. The idea here was to encourage the younger generation to move away from the leaders and to begin farming on their own. The result of the application of the idea was that it became difficult if not impossible for communities that were dependant on tribal customs to conduct some of their ceremonies because the clan or family was so dispersed. The CFR courts then served to provide them with some forum in which a modicum of justice could be realized. Subsequent sale of allotments and the settling of white purchasers within the reservation borders made it virtually impossible to do anything except rely on these courts for redress.

Building a de facto Tlingit Nation, Part 3 – Clans and tribal law

In 2 previous posts, I discussed how we can use various Tlingit controlled institutions, municipal governments and ANCSA Corporations, to build a decentralized, de facto Tlingit Nation. Many of the problems our communities face today are the result of a drastic reorganization of Tlingit life, in the political, cultural, and economic realms. We were economically devastated when our territorial clan waters and resources were taken from us. To further the destruction of our clan system, what resources that have been returned to us have by-passed clans and come to us in the form of private property reorganized under ANCSA Corporations. This form of property ownership is alien to the Tlingit people, and our poverty rates and the cost of living in our communities show how devastating this change has been. The American economy largely ignores our communities, and what was once our most valuable resource, salmon, is now controlled by the federal government and is depleted when compared to the runs the Tlingit maintained under our management. The previous posts in this series made the case for:

  1. ANCSA Corporations to focus on building resilient, sustainable communities and economies
  2. Tlingit controlled municipal governments to protect the interests of the Tlingit Nation as a whole with the support of our clans

In this third part, I’d like to discuss how our clan system can provide a parallel system of law and dispute mediation that is preferable to Anglo style courts, whether they be Anglo style courts run by municpal, state or federal authorities or Anglo style courts but run by tribal governments.


About Vince

I am a Tlingit, born and raised in Tlingit Country, and a proud member of the Tlingit Nation.
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