"Terry Anderson argues in "Native Americans Need the Rule of Law" (op-ed, March 16) that the keys to ending the persistent poverty of American Indian nations are to end federal control of Indian lands while increasing federal (and state) control over tribal court systems. He would do the latter through federal standard setting and the threat of state jurisdiction if tribes fail to meet those standards. Mr. Anderson sees this as promoting the rule of law. In fact, it's a return to the destructive paternalism from which Indian country has suffered for so long.
The only policy that has ever worked to reverse decades of poverty on reservations has been to allow Indian nations to take over their own affairs. After decades of decline and stagnation, since about 1990 American Indian economies (both with casinos and without) began to grow at a rate three times faster than the U.S. economy.
The turnaround came when Indian nations wrestled away rights of self-government -- on land use and education, law enforcement and courts -- from federal bureaucracies. As it has everywhere else in the world, self-rule has meant improved accountability and pressure to perform. This has led to remarkable cases such as the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in Oklahoma and the Mississippi Choctaw Nation, where tribal investments in their own judicial systems have brought influxes of investment, expanded employment opportunities, improved living conditions, and an end to the reservation brain drain."
Get the Story:
Stephen Cornell, Carole Goldberg and Joseph P. Kalt: Native Americans Need Rule of Law, but Whose Law?
(The Wall Street Journal 4/3)
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