Steven Newcomb: Scalia 'never heard' about Indian law cases

"At a reception, I had an opportunity to talk with Justice Scalia. After saying hello and telling him my name, I asked: “I wonder if you might have ever read my law review article ‘The Evidence of Christian Nationalism in Federal Indian Law.’”

“No, what’s it about?” he responded.

I told him my article is about the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Johnson v. M’Intosh from 1823, a decision in which the Court said that the first “Christian people” to “discover” lands inhabited by “natives, who were heathens” have the right to assume the “ultimate dominion” over and title to the lands of the so-called “heathens.”

Given that Johnson v. M’Intosh was decided on the basis of the doctrine of discovery rather than the U.S. Constitution, I asked him how his guiding legal philosophy of “Constitutional Originalism” would relate to the Johnson decision. I asked him if the Court might ever consider overturning the decision.

Scalia said it was impossible to imagine an issuing ever coming up that would require the Court to address such a ruling; he also claimed in the same breath, however, that he had never heard of Johnson v. McIntosh. “I’ve never heard of it. I’ve never read it,” he said. He also said he’d never heard of the doctrine of discovery."

Get the Story:
Steven Newcomb: A Conversation with a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (Indian Country Today 6/23)

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