What is an Indigenous Nation?
“Nation” is not an indigenous word. While most native communities have a word for their idea of a collective political or cultural group, their philosophy is not centered upon economic markets or democratic governments.
The difference between a tribal society and a contemporary nation is: Tribal societies are framed on kinship and local loyalties. These supersede national loyalties.
In tribal societies, kinship identity plays a central role. In contrast to
a nation, clan organizations in tribal communities often take charge. Among
the Cherokee and Iroquois, the clans managed justice. When a person was killed by a non-tribal member it was the clan, not the nation, that
Most contemporary Lakota, Dakota and Nakota Sioux maintain local and kinship based identities and social obligations.
After colonial contact, some Indian peoples grouped together to strengthen their
defenses against marginalization, assimilation, and incorporation. Some
Indigenous Peoples formed national identities and
institutions. These include the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Agua Caliente Band of
Cahuilla Indians, and others.
While many Indigenous nations are still based on kinship, they remain part of the contemporary world and will do so indefinitely. In the future, these kin-based nations will continue to surprise us by the innovative and successful ways they manage economic and political relations.
Village © Gina Boltz
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