Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. Photo: Robert Wilson

Steven Newcomb: European concepts continue to oppress our nations

Should indigenous nations argue for the existence "aboriginal title" in the United States? Steven Newcomb (Shawnee / Lenape) of the Indigenous Law Institute looks closer at a concept that continues to affect federal Indian law and policy today:
The theory of “aboriginal title” is of a set of ideas produced by the Euro-American mind through the development of metaphors and other mental constructs, which, by means of a wave of genocidal acts, was forcibly imposed on our original nations and peoples, along with many other alien ideas. The “Theory of Aboriginal Title” is focused on in the book Indian Pueblo Water Rights, co-authored by Charles T. DuMars, Marilyn O’Leary, and Albert E. Utton. The first heading of Chapter 3, “The Pueblo Water Right as Aboriginal,” discusses the historical development of the “Theory of Aboriginal Title.”

“At the time of European exploration and colonization of North America,” the authors say, “the only inhabitants were Indians.” Before Christian Europeans invasively brought the words “Indian” and “Indians” to the land mass now typically called “North America” or “the Americas,” there were no people or peoples living here who were identified by those names. Not one original nation of this part of the planet self-identified as “Indian” or “Indians” prior to Christian European colonization. Stated differently, before Christo-European colonizers invaded our part of the planet, no peoples existed here who called themselves “Indian” or “Indians.”

Such terms are metaphors mentally and linguistically invented by Europeans and, backed by various forms and means of force, projected by Europeans onto the original nations and peoples living in a vast geographical place that Europeans of long ago knew as “the Indies.” Our nations and peoples, comprised of our free and independent ancestors, were not “Indian” or “Indians” except in Christian European language and mental activity. Our ancestors became “known” by such names as a direct result of Europeans imposing their language and ideas on our ancestors. The Christian Europeans mentally projected words and ideas such as “Indians” and “Indian occupancy” out “into” the world and then claimed to “see” what were in actuality their own mental and linguistic projections.

Read More on the Story:
Steven Newcomb: The Invasive and Imposed Constructs of the European Mind (Indian Country Media Network 7/22)

Join the Conversation