Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Bill Lawrence on Sovereignty.............

Lawrence applauds the minimization of tribal authority. In his view, tribal sovereignty--the notion that reservations ought to be treated as mini-nations, immune from many federal and state laws--is at the root of what troubles Indian country today: bureaucratic graft, civil-rights abuses, staggeringly high rates of unemployment, widespread poverty, educational failures, social dysfunction. "Sovereignty is what maintains the status quo," Lawrence says.

To most fellow journalists, tribal leaders, and treaty-rights activists, Lawrence's position is veritable heresy. Since the Sixties, the Indian establishment has pushed for greater autonomy. And to a large extent, they have been successful, with tribes coast to coast taking hold of everything from education to law enforcement.

In Lawrence's view, this has served only to hold back his fellow Indians. Even casinos--the much celebrated "new buffalo," and the most tangible product of expanded Indian sovereignty in the past decade--rankle the publisher. "I think if we had an unbiased study of the effects of gambling, it would show a net negative," he opines. Then he cracks a wry smile. "That's why nobody's done it."

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