The Biblical basis of federal Indian law & policy
Posted: April 14, 2003 - 11:04am EST
by: Steven Newcomb / Indigenous Research Coordinator / D-Q University at Sycuan
I have often wondered why federal Indian law attorneys dare not mention the crusading tradition of the United States against "heathens" and "infidels," namely, American Indian nations. The Western Shoshone Nation is directly challenging this tradition in court and in the U.S. Congress. Their challenge brings to light the strange and startling fact that U.S. federal Indian law is based on religious prejudice.
As bizarre as it may seem, today’s federal definitions of Indian title and Indian nationhood find their basis in the Old Testament covenant tradition. This tradition is premised on the idea of a "chosen people" who have a covenant (treaty) with their deity to take over and colonize certain lands that the deity promised them, in this case Indian lands.
The history and discourse of the United States is replete with examples of this crusading tradition, which is rooted in the Old Testament of the bible. Even Thomas Jefferson, known for his strong advocacy of a separation of church and state, proposed that the Great Seal of the United States depict the Israelites moving into the "promised land," guided by clouds and fire. (more)