Steven Newcomb: Domination deprived California tribes of land

Steven Newcomb. Photo from Finding the Missing Link

Steven Newcomb of the Indigenous Law Institute discusses the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Barker v. Harvey:
In the 1901 U.S. Supreme Court case Barker v. Harvey, Alejandro Barker and other family members claimed a title to lands in California. The case describes the lands as being “within the limits of the territory ceded to the United States by the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo” of 1848. As plaintiffs, the Barkers claimed a right to the lands as against certain defendants whom the Barker case refers to as “mission Indians,” or “those regarded as having been, from 1769 to 1834,forced under the control of the Spanish Catholic mission system.”

The U.S. Supreme Court in Barker did not identify the Native defendants as representing the collective interests of any Indian nation such as the Cupeño, the Luiseño, or the Cahuilla. They were identified merely as individuals. The lands in dispute were those of “Warner Ranch.” Those lands were not identified in the Barker case as part of the traditional territory of any original nation of that geographical region.

The Barker ruling says that the Indian defendants did not claim “a fee in the premises.” In other words, they did not claim “ownership.” They only claimed “a right of permanent occupancy by virtue of the alleged fact that they are mission Indians, so called.” Evidently, at that time, during the 50 years since California had gained statehood, no Indian nation had ever asserted in a U.S. court a right to their national territory as an original nation, relative to the lands in question. It would appear that to this day no Indian nation in California has ever argued in a U.S. court that it is a nation, with an existence which predates the Spanish invasion, and on that basis, advocated on behalf of its full nationhood and the full extent of its original territory, which it has never ceded or relinquished by a ratified treaty.

Get the Story:
Steven Newcomb: The Domination System in California (Indian Country Today 3/8)

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