"A conflict between two disparate cultures." Indigenous Agency and Legal Narratives in the United States. The case of 'Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association.'
In 1988, the United States Supreme Court denied the Yurok, Karuk, and Tolowa tribes constitutional protection of ‘High Country,’ a sacred area in danger of being destroyed by the government. The dispute, known as Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association, became infamous for its detrimental effects on legal protection of Native American religious beliefs and practices. This thesis explores the space of Native American participation in the legal landscape of the U.S by framing it in a postcolonial discourse. The Lyng proceedings serve an interesting starting point for an analysis of how Native American litigants must navigate the courtroom and the law by adhering to the rules and customs of an institution based on an Anglo-American, and ultimately, colonial heritage. The language of the Supreme Court reveals a low degree of understanding of, or respect for, Native American worldviews. Prejudices and misconceptions of Native religions are masked by an abstract level of reasoning and a purported concern for the rights of the government. This negates indigenous faiths as equal to Judeo-Christians under the law, because of the first groups’ often-unfamiliar appearance and worldviews. Consequently, many tribes have sought rights protection outside of the courtroom. Since 1988, numerous steps haven been taken to ensure that the spiritual beliefs and practices of Native Americans are secured against private or governmental interests. New laws, practices, and public awareness are contributing to right past wrongs, away from the shifting support of the U.S. courts. Nevertheless, this form of active agency is important in its impact on the postcolonial landscape of law, as well as on the government and the image of the Native in the United States.
PublisherUniversitetet i Tromsø
University of Tromsø
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