Mr. Chasan provides startling perspectives for new readers of Alaska Native/Native American issues. Many of the questions he poses are still ignored by the popular media and state governments.

Special rights, special interest groups - these are only the milder criticisms applied when Native Americans, including Alaska Natives, assert traditional rights based on Federal Indian Law. Daniel Jack Chasan, better than any other writer I am aware of, captures why these issues strike many as somehow just not right. Read the selection carefully and then try to write why you agree or disagree with any portion of it. Leave both overnight and then read the selection and your written response again. Note especially what you make of the Rockefeller - Indian property rights argument and why you think they are similiar or differ. I don't expect this excercise will change many minds one way or another but it might help to elevate the level of discussion. Given the level of the discussion, this is no small thing." ...Paul Ongtooguk


Indians and Rockefellers: the Durable Cord


"Chapter 3. Indians and Rockefellers: the Durable Cord," from Up For Grabs, Daniel Jack Chasan, Madrona Publishers, Inc., 1977. Used with permission of the author, for educational purposes only.

EITHER the state's attorney was seriously agitated, or he was putting on a pretty good show. It was the winter of early 1974, and the Washington State Supreme Court was hearing, for the second time, a case in which attorneys for a Colville Indian named Leonard Tonasket argued that the state had no authority to tax cigarettes sold at Tonasket's store on Colville reservation land. The state had no, or at best limited, jurisdiction on Indian land, they argued; the Constitution gave Congress sole power to regulate commerce with Indian tribes, and the state had no right to interfere. The state didn't accept that argument and had, in fact, raided Tonasket's business, attached his bank account and confiscated cigarettes both in and en route to his store. The state's attorney set up maps showing the proximity of Indian reservations to white population centers in Washington and painted a dire picture of the fate that would befall neighboring white businessmen if Indians were allowed to sell things on their reservations without charging tax. "You mean," asked the chief justice, leaning forward in what seemed to be astonishment, "they could sell liquor? Pianos?"

"Exactly, your honor," the attorney replied.

The attorney's argument had nothing to do with the letter of the law. The point he was making with his maps was that recognizing the Indians' special legal status and preserving the whites' economic interests were incompatible. (The court ruled that Federal law gave states taxing power on Indian reservations—a notion that the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected—but that state law permitted the Tonaskets to sell each customer two cartons of cigarettes tax-free.) The state's attorney's ideas were hardly original, and hardly unique to Washington State. They seem to crop up, in one form or another, whenever Native Americans claim that law and history have given them certain special rights of sovereignty or title. The feuding over Pacific salmon shows how an established economic interest can be seen as the equivalent of a legal right. The feuding over Native American claims to sovereignty and title shows how an established economic interest can be seen as more important than a legal right.

From the perspective of the late twentieth century, it is much more convenient to regret the way in which the Indians were strong-armed and swindled out of a continent than to recognize that some of their claims to the continent may still be valid. When white civilization found them, the tribes were sovereign entities. The federal government signed treaties with them as sovereign entities. Exactly what property rights the treaties gave the Indians is unclear in many cases, but it is perfectly clear that the law still regards Indian tribes as sovereign in many respects. The idea of Indian sovereignty is not easy for most white people to accept or even grasp. It seems wildly anachronistic. If you think of it as a special status granted to primitives, it is inappropriate to Native Americans in the late twentieth century. But if you think of it as a legal right reserved to aboriginal bargaining agents and inherited by their descendants, it begins to make sense—not, perhaps, in any absolute moral terms, but in terms of the legal system on which we all rely.

Sensible or not, when the Native Americans' unique legal status is joined to claims of ownership, people get upset. In fact, people react to Native American sovereignty much as they respond to the sovereignty of minor foreign powers. One does not generally begrudge even the most unlikely nations their own presidents and generals, their own uniforms and currency. It is all quaint and rather amusing. But when they start suggesting that their sovereignty extends to certain oil fields or copper mines or whatever, one is no longer amused.

Closer to home, a lot of people felt things had gone too far when, for example, a small, impoverished Indian tribe asked for title to a portion of its ancestral land which happened to lie along the south rim of the Grand Canyon. In 1973, a bill was introduced in Congress for the purpose of roughly doubling the size of the Grand Canyon National Park. The land added to the Park would include an area along the Canyon rim on which the Havasupai Indians, who live on 500 acres at the bottom of Havasu Canyon, graze their horses and cattle during the summer. The land was already under federal management. The Havasupai had to get a new grazing permit every year, and they weren't allowed to erect living places there. The Indians wanted to be able to live at their summer grazing grounds and wanted to free themselves from the need to get a new permit every year. The bill gave them an opportunity to do so, and they consequently proposed adding to it language that would give them trust title to 250,000 acres of the canyon rim.

No one denied that the Havasupai had used the land during most of the past 1300 years, or suggested that they had misused it under the yearly permits. The tribe's poverty and cramped quarters at the bottom of the canyon were beyond question. But actually giving the Indians title to that piece of land struck a large and vocal portion of the environmental movement as out of the question. One simply couldn't turn part of the Grand Canyon over to any single bunch of people. Besides, what would they do with the land once they had it?

All of a sudden, some of the same environmentalists who were forever legitimizing their own position by invoking the red man's traditional reverence for the land began arguing that the red man might put up condominiums along the edge of the canyon. In fact, they argued, the land wasn't good for much else. And if the red man had title to the land, he could do with it as he pleased. The Sierra Club led a serious lobbying effort against the Indians' request. The club's Washington representative, Brock Evans, said that giving title to the Havasupai would be a "disaster." (The Havasupai wound up with trust title to 185,000 acres, under terms that preclude most development.)

For some time now the relationship between the Indians and the environmental movement has been full of irony. Indians asking for control of a resource often say that they were, after all, the "first conservationists" and can be counted on to manage it wisely. Environmentalists, eager to prove that they are not simply odd-ball holdouts from the march of civilization, often say that they are out of step only with the current exploitative civilization, that another civilization inhabited the continent for millennia with an attitude much like theirs. But time after time when specific conflicts arise, environmentalists and Indians wind up on opposite sides of the fence—a fact that causes some thoughtful environmentalists a good deal of discomfort. The root of the problem is that while environmentalists are usually trying to restrict or eliminate the economic uses of a particular area, the Indians are usually asserting ownership—which implies, by any conventional standards, the right to do as they please with it. They may choose not to exploit a resource—as the Northern Cheyenne have currently chosen to do with their immense deposit of low-sulphur coal in Montana—or they may choose to exploit it to the hilt—as the Navajo have done with the coal of Black Mesa. Either way, the choice is all theirs, which is something the environmental movement can't logically accept.

Of course, organized environmentalists aren't the only whites who are troubled by claims of Native American ownership. The objects of those claims are seldom small and are sometimes staggering. Perhaps the most impressive assertions of Native American ownership were the Eskimos', Indians' and Aleuts' successful demand for 40 million acres of Alaska and their largely successful demand for a billion dollars as payment for the rest of the state. No one questioned the fact that the natives had lived there since time immemorial and that, until recently, no one else would have willingly been caught dead on most of the land. Still, white Alaskans were outraged when the native leaders began pressing their claims in the late 1960s. "Just because somebody's grandfather chased a moose across the land doesn't mean he owns it," said Governor Hickel. That was the prevailing sentiment. Most of the state was no longer exclusively native country. The natives' own range had contracted. White people hunted over much of the state. The state government itself was eager to select land that was rich in petroleum and other minerals. What did the natives think they were doing?

Ownership of land in the European sense had never been a part of native culture, but that didn't mean that either the older and more traditional or the younger, college-educated natives were free of possessive feelings about the land. In 1970, Emil Notti, then president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, said, "I fly into villages and sit down with the village men to talk. I tell them that the state can take their land and . . . can sell it or do whatever it wants. They get angry. They say, 'My father had a camp here and my grandfather had a camp twenty-five miles over there. I inherited the land from them, and I want to pass it down to my children.' " Certainly the various native groups had fought fiercely with each other in defense of what each considered its land.

At a 1969 Congressional hearing, John Borbridge, then head of the Tlingits' and Haidas' organization, was asked, "When the Russians took possession of the area which they occupied, was there resistance to their occupancy and was there intent to exclude them from the place?"

Borbridge replied, "Mr. Congressman, I am very pleased that you asked that question. In Yakutat the Russians were—there may be a politer word than 'massacre' but we drove them out. . . . When the Russians wanted fish or when they wanted game they recognized that this was the land of the Tlingits and Haidas so that we in effect were establishing our dominion as of that time and this was clearly recognized by them."

The native leaders—who carried on the land claims fight largely without the knowledge of many of their constituents in the remote villages—were convinced that they had a sound legal claim to the land. No one had ever bought or taken it from them, so it was still theirs. They were also convinced that if they didn't proceed as if they had a sound claim, they would wind up with very little. An Athabascan leader named Alfred Ketzler explained in a letter to The New Republic that "to those who view [the land claims] issue as one of alleviating poverty and not involving property rights, our demand for some $10,000 and 800 acres per capita seems unreasonable and even outrageous." A recognition of the property rights involved "is the keystone to a fair, generous and just settlement of our land claims." In a more philosophical vein, Frederick Paul, then the attorney for the Arctic Slope Native Association, wrote, "Why is it that if the [state] wants to build a road over a white man's property, automatically one knows the [state] must pay him its fair value; but when the [state] wants Indian lands, one worries about the need of the Indians and justifies payment and the amount thereof by the criterion of need? . . .

"Why is it . . . that the amount of payment must be excused by 'what is necessary for the future economic and social development of the community,' as Walter J. Hickel, then governor, suggested? . . .

"How about the white man's rule of fair value?"

The natives never did manage to convince a lot of influential whites—not even some of their best friends, as it were—that their case would stand up in court. They made it quite plain, though, that they wouldn't hesitate to go to court and tie up North Slope oil development indefinitely unless their claims were settled generously. Their occupancy of the land and the plausibility of their legal arguments put them in a position to do so. Congress gave them most of what they asked.

Some of the natives' main opposition in Congress had come from both conservative and liberal politicians who represented other states with large Indian populations. In Alaska, it was possible to give the natives a lot without really taking from anyone else; in the more populous and more developed states of the "lower 48," it was not. And if the Alaskan natives got away with this, who knew what the Indians back home would try asking for? It was not a matter of questioning the legal or historical validity of the Alaskan natives' claims but of protecting the economic and political status quo.

Outside Alaska—and Maine, if the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy Indians had not scaled down their claim to two-thirds of the state—the assertion of Native American rights probably poses the greatest potential threat to the status quo in the arid regions of the West. There, the scant supply of water has long been the object of intense competition among white farmers, industrialists and population centers. Indians have not added much to the demand. But the Winters Doctrine, created by a 1908 ruling of the United States Supreme Court, gives Indian tribes a right to virtually any water that flows through or by their reservations. The Court reasoned that the government established reservations in order to turn the Indians into settled agriculturalists. They couldn't practice agriculture without water, so a right to use water was implied by the establishment of the reservations. The Court did not suggest any limit to that right, and more recent Court decisions have reaffirmed it. The Court's 1976 decision in the Cappaert case seems to extend the Winters Doctrine to underground water supplies.

Until the mid-1970s, the doctrine remained rather obscure. It is no longer obscure, though, and there can hardly be a tribal lawyer anywhere in the arid West who is entirely ignorant of it or its potential. In water-short Arizona, some tribes have already begun invoking the Winters Doctrine.

It is not as if they had just discovered the value of water. Many Arizona Indians irrigated for centuries. In many cases, white society gained access to the water by shoving Indians out of the way. A historical report delivered to the Gila River Indian Community in 1974 by Nicklason Associates of Washington, D.C., observed that, "For several centuries prior to the mid-1800s, the Gila River Pima and Maricopa Indians lived as farmers irrigating their lands in northern Mexico. [The area didn't become part of the United States until 1853.] Under their care the luxuriant bottom land of the Gila River Valley produced crops plentiful for their needs and the needs too, after the 1853 Gadsden Purchase, of white emigrants and military troops on the Overland Trail. Beyond the provision of food to these groups the Pimas and Maricopas also provided a safe haven against other, hostile Indian tribes whose marauding life style would have otherwise made hazardous the entire Gila Valley.

"A hard irony arose from that fact. Because of the safety the tribes provided them, white settlers as early as the late 1860s moved onto the land above the Indians on the river and, in the process of their irrigation, diverted the water of the Gila River to the detriment of the tribes below. As the settlers still later increased in number, as far as 100 to 150 miles upstream, the Pimas and Maricopas at first gave up their second, summer crop and eventually their single remaining crop until by 1900, because of the lack of irrigating water, their once-lush valley turned into a desolated land grown up in weeds."

Farther south around Tucson, where the Papago Indians now live in a desert, nineteenth-century maps show swampland, and surviving correspondence shows that the Indians once asked the government to give them a sawmill so that they could take advantage of the huge mesquite trees that grew there. Now, the Papagos are suing everyone around, including the mines, the City of Tucson and a huge pecan orchard, for the rights to the underground water. The Indians don't really want to deprive white society of all its water, but they do want white society to listen to them and have found that litigation is a great attention-getter.

And they do have an extremely promising legal case. If it turns out that the Indians in Arizona or anyplace else in the arid West really own most of the water, the economic impact and the resulting bitterness will be immense.

At this point, however, the assertion of Native American rights has probably had its greatest economic impact and aroused the most bitterness, not in the arid regions, but in the rainy western portion of Washington State. There, despite the Tonaskets and various other Indians who have disturbed the state government by selling cigarettes and fireworks tax-free, the main conflict has concerned Indian sovereignty over, not land, but fish.

When Governor Isaac Stevens signed a series of treaties with the Indians of western Washington in 1854 and 1855 to acquire their land for the United States, the main thing they wanted to retain, evidently, was the right to continue fishing. As U.S. District Court Judge George Boldt observed in a historic 1974 decision, "One common cultural characteristic among all of these Indians was the almost universal and generally paramount dependence upon the products of an aquatic economy, especially anadromous fish [which include salmon and steelhead trout]. . . . At the treaty negotiations, a primary concern of the Indians whose way of life was so heavily dependent upon harvesting anadromous fish was that they have freedom to move about to gather food, particularly salmon . . . at their usual and accustomed fishing places. . . . Reluctant to be confined to small reservation bases, the Indian negotiators insisted that their people continue to fish as they had beyond the reservation boundaries. There is no indication that the Indians intended or understood the language [of the treaties] . . . to limit their right to fish in any way."

It was not long before the Indians began getting elbowed out of their historical fishing spots. Sometimes the elbow was a legal one—the Nisqually Indians had the Nisqually River gerrymandered entirely out of their reservation by act of Congress in 1906—but usually it received legal sanction after the fact or not at all. In 1899, the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Richard Rathbun, wrote in a chronicle of salmon fishing at Point Roberts, Washington, "The principal reef-net ground of the entire region lies directly off its southeast corner, a large, kelp-covered ledge, to which the Indians have undoubtedly resorted for many generations, and which has been the cause of much contention among the several neighboring tribes. The perpetual right to fish upon it, in common with other inhabitants of the territory, was secured to the Indians by treaty with the United States in 1855, and while formerly regarded solely in the light of a rich collecting-ground where their own needs could be readily met, it afterwards became the source of much revenue in their dealings with the whites. . . . In recent years their number has varied from 150 to 200, though sometimes reaching 250. Their canoes in active operation have been as many as 15 to 20, but lately the number has greatly fallen off through the intervention of the whites. Their drying racks formerly covered a considerable area, but they are now small in extent and have been entirely driven from Cannery Point, their principal location in more prosperous days., After the completion in 1894 of the continuous line of [white-owned fish] traps commanding the approaches to the big reef, its value for reef-net fishing seems to have been in great part destroyed, and the Indian catches declined so much in consequence as to render the old-time occupation practically unprofitable. The primitive methods are making way for those of civilization, and the process has not been wholly devoid of certain elements of injustice."

By and large, Indians were not harassed for fishing on their reservations. (A 1934 edition of The Seattle Times did carry a story about an Indian tribe on the Olympic Peninsula that had to call in surveyors to prove that one of its members, arrested for illegal fishing on public land, had actually been 400 feet inside the reservation at the time.) But the reservations were generally small and not necessarily in the best fishing spots. Off the reservations, catching salmon in the rivers with nets was prohibited by white fishing regulations, and Indians were not thought to have any right that transcended those regulations. After a while, few Indians tried fishing outside their reservations unless they owned or worked on commercial boats. A few kept it up, though, and in the early 1960s, when the civil-rights movement brought ethnic militancy into vogue, a few started fishing as a political act, to assert what they claimed were their treaty rights.

The "fish-in" movement began on the Puyallup and Nisqually Rivers, led originally by a burly Indian named Robert Satiacum. It received national attention for a while when Marlon Brando and Dick Gregory joined the fishermen, and Gregory was arrested.

The essential question being tested by the fish-ins was whether or not Indians fishing off reservations had any right to take fish in places, at times or with equipment forbidden to white citizens. The treaties said only that Indians would retain the right to fish at their "usual and accustomed" places, "in common with the citizens of the territory." What did "in common with" mean? State fish and game officials and their white constituents argued that it gave Indians exactly the same rights as everyone else. The relative handful of militant Indians and their attorneys argued that it meant only that white citizens couldn't be totally excluded. Indians and white allies were getting arrested right and left, so they had ample opportunity to make this argument in court.

Unfortunately for both sides in the dispute, the early court decisions settled virtually nothing. The first step toward a settlement was the United States Supreme Court's 1968 decision in the Puyallup case. No one was terribly happy with the Puyallup decision. The Indian side was unhappy because the Court said the state did have a right to regulate Indian fishing off reservations. The state was unhappy because the Court said it had a right to regulate off-reservation fishing only if such regulation was necessary for conservation of the fish, and the state hadn't proven that necessity. The Indians' basic rights under the treaties remained totally unclear. Indians kept fishing. State officials kept arresting and abusing them.

The next step toward defining the treaty rights was taken by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Belloni in a 1969 case brought by Yakima Indian fishermen on the Columbia River. Belloni ruled that—as Indian attorneys had been arguing for some time—the chief purpose of state "conservation" laws was to divvy up the salmon among competing groups of white commercial and sports fishermen. The laws did not set aside a share for the Indians, but the laws had better start doing so. "There is no reason to believe," Belloni said, "that a ruling which grants the Indians their full treaty rights will affect the necessary escapement of fish in the least. The only effect will be that some of the fish now taken by sportsmen and commercial fishermen must be shared with the treaty Indians, as our forefathers promised over a hundred years ago." Belloni was not saying that the Indians deserved the fish in return for wrongs done their ancestors. He was saying they had a right to the fish because of legally binding documents their ancestors signed.

Belloni didn't define the right beyond an "equitable" share of the fish, and anyway, his ruling didn't apply to the streams of western Washington, where the conflict was most bitter and violent. There, Indians kept fishing, and state officials kept running them in, often confiscating their boats and gear and sometimes roughing them up. There were documented cases of state game wardens attacking Indian men, women and children with tear gas, blackjacks and six-celled flashlights.

The conflict dragged on and on with nobody entirely sure of what the legalities would ultimately turn out to be. Finally, in an attempt to settle things once and for all, the United States Attorney's office for western Washington filed suit on behalf of the Indians against the state. The purpose of the suit, which was known as U.S. v. Washington, was to bring out all the evidence and let the courts really decide what the treaties meant. The government was joined, amicus curiae, by a number of the tribes. While the suit was pending, the state by and large refrained from arresting Indian fishermen with its former zeal; until the suit was settled, state officials figured, no judge was going to convict anyone anyway.

The case was tried before U.S. District Judge George Boldt, whose decision, issued in February 1974, was a bombshell. Boldt had taken the case very seriously. He left certain details for a second trial, and concentrated solely on the meaning of the treaties. Even so, his decision filled 254 pages. Interested attorneys felt that Boldt had tried hard to make sure that his decision would not be reversed. It was clearly designed to establish all the relevant facts, and it emerged as a massive compendium of history, anthropology and jurisprudence.

What he concluded was that the Indians had a legal right to half the fish. The treaties hadn't given them that right; the treaties had reserved to them a right they already had. As for the language of the treaties, Boldt went back to mid-nineteenth-century sources and asserted that "by dictionary definition and as intended and used in the Indian treaties and in this decision, 'in common with' means sharing equally the opportunity to take fish at 'usual and accustomed grounds and stations.' "

To say that white fishermen had a hard time accepting this decision would be an understatement. Here were people whose families had been fishing for two and three generations being told that someone else had a prior right to half the fish. (Actually, Boldt had said that the Indians had a right to take up to half the fish that could be caught at or on the way to one of their traditional fishing places without endangering the survival of a particular fish run. If the Indians lacked the equipment or manpower to catch half the fish, white fishermen didn't have to let the rest go by.) Their economic welfare seemed endangered, and so did their way of life. They had a hard time believing that Boldt had been led by logic alone to conclusions which struck them as so menacing and so unjust. Some of them sought other explanations. Had Boldt been bought off? One of the more fanciful theories was that Weyerhaeuser and other big corporations interested in commercial "fish farming" wanted all the competition out of the way; they knew they couldn't buy off the yeoman white fishermen, so they bought off the judge and in due time they would also buy off the more-easily-corrupted Indians, thereby securing a monopoly of the salmon industry. (This theory remained in circulation for more than three years.) Even without such fanciful rationales, many people believed that Boldt's decision would be thrown out entirely on appeal. That they should have wanted to believe such a thing was perfectly natural. That they should have been allowed to believe it suggests that whoever was supposed to be giving them informed counsel failed miserably. The cause of this failure may have been political expedience or it may have been sheer incompetence. Where the state government was concerned, it seems to have been the latter. Evidently, the state's legal officers never believed personally in Indian sovereignty or Indian rights, and their professional advice was that Indian sovereignty and Indian rights didn't exist. Almost three years after Boldt's decision, Washington's assistant attorney general in charge of fisheries told a group of irate fishermen that the decision was "morally reprehensible and unconstitutional." With legal advice like that, it is hardly surprising that people were shocked in 1975 when the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court upheld Boldt's decision unanimously.

The decisions did not end the problem. The Indians did not consider themselves entirely free from harassment and were still not granted any special rights to the Fraser River salmon, which were covered by an international agreement between the United States and Canada and had not been included in Boldt's decision. The state, faced with a division of salmon between the whites and more than two dozen separate tribes, caught between Boldt's decision and the decisions of county judges, felt that it was faced with a totally unmanageable situation, one in which the salmon could not be adequately protected. And the white fishermen were still not resigned to their fate. The commercial fishermen still felt that their livelihoods were being taken from them. And the sports fishermen, as a congressional staff member observed, were "in some cases more emotional than the commercial fishermen about 'their' fish." Being more numerous as well, the sports fishermen exerted a greater influence on many local politicians.

Among the commercial fishermen, many of the same people who feel that the federal government's agreement with Canada gives them an absolute, perfectly legitimate right to catch Fraser River salmon have never accepted the idea that the same government's agreements with the Indian tribes give Indians comparable rights to catch salmon spawned in western Washington. Ironically, both the treaty with Canada and the treaties with the tribes—as defined by Boldt—confer exactly the same thing: the right to "share equally" in the fish. The Canadian agreement is a lot more recent, and its language is a lot more precise. The Indian treaties have required interpretation, and an interpretation—even if it has won the approval of higher-court judges who are far removed from its impact—is easy to reject. Since Boldt announced his interpretation of the treaties, there have been white "fish-ins," muttering about going out with shotguns to defend one's livelihood, harassment of state fishery officials, rammings, widespread poaching, some shots actually fired and a general residue of resentment.

One third-generation fisherman said within the space of a single brief conversation, "I have a lot of Indian friends" and "I hate Indians." Why should Indians—represented in many white minds by the Indians one saw reeling drunkenly through the seedier downtown parts of Washington cities—enjoy some special right to the fish? As one fisherman argued, "I don't expect anyone to give me anything special because I'm Yugoslavian."

An attorney for Indians in the Northwest has explained the feeling of such whites as the same kind of resentment people waiting outside a theater feel toward the guy who cuts in at the front of the line.

As the early Indians were shoved out of the way, white people moved into the spaces they vacated. If the Indians are to move back, they must now shove someone else out of the way. The injustice is then compounded. The easiest way to find one's path through this moral labyrinth is by ignoring the question of whether or not a group of contemporary red men deserve some valuable right as reparation for wrongs done to ancestors they never knew, abandoning morality per se, and following the coarse but durable cord of ownership. That is the approach that white society takes toward its own members. No one asks whether or not the Rockefellers deserve their millions, just whether or not the law allows the Rockefellers to possess them.

If one takes that same simple, amoral approach toward Native American claims, however, one still encounters the familiar conflicts between what is right and what is practical. One has simply replaced morality with the letter of the law, and neither is economically convenient. The economic system has no trouble coping with the Rockefellers' ownership of their millions; in fact, there are those who argue that the economic system has been set up so people like the Rockefellers can own millions. But the system has not been set up to accommodate the possibility that the Pimas and Papagos and other Arizona Indians control most of the water in their arid state; that the Havasupai own part of the Grand Canyon; that the Eskimos, Indians and Aleuts own 400 million acres of Alaska; that the Penobscots and Passamaquoddies own most of Maine; or that the Muckleshoots, Nisquallies and other treaty tribes have a right to half the fish in western Washington. When such possibilities arise, many people feel threatened and are genuinely shocked. Often, their shock turns into lingering resentment. It just doesn't seem right that certain kinds of people should own certain things. Beyond the substantive issues of geopolitics, petrodollars and the rest, people were just downright offended to discover that the Arabs—still largely camel drivers in the public mind—actually owned all that oil. And far beyond any questions of legality, people have been just downright offended to discover that the Indians actually own all that land or water, or all those fish. The question is, how far beyond issues of legality does society want to go? At what point and for whose benefit should inconvenient laws and treaties be ignored or discarded? Is justice supposed to be truly blind? If it is, then what is sauce for the Rockefellers must presumably be sauce for the Muckleshoots, too.

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