It’s not easy to think of cases that we have read about and discussed in this course that are not characterized by a baseline of antiquated racial attitudes. Moreover, it is difficult to remember any of these cases whose racist language has since been overturned or even acknowledged. Rather, it seems that almost every week we read about a new case and new policy that still exists, acts as precedent and still effects peoples’ lives today, decided based largely on some outdated and inaccurate classification of Indians. United States v. Sandoval is no exception. Although the language and the way the case was carried out were not as obviously racist or problematic as, for example, Johnson v. M’Intosh, the use of racial categorizing as justification and the discussion of “dependence,” which was a racially loaded term, showed that the Supreme Court justices were not making their decision from an informed and objective mindset.
It does not seem reasonable to me that decisions like these, based on antiquated and inaccurate line of thinking, should be allowed to endure and to have any impact on our current legislature. However, the United States has done very little to reverse or even acknowledge the problems in these cases and the current policy they inspired. For my midterm paper I did some research on Federal Aboriginal policy in Australia, and one thing that stuck out to me was the period of time in the mid 1900s when Australian government set about dismantling a substantial amount of policy based on racist language and attitudes. Like the United States, the Australian government had named Aboriginal peoples as “wards of the state,” and had a system of legislature whose claimed goal was the “protection” of the Aboriginal peoples, similar to the theme of “dependency” so often thrown around in the United States courts and congress in regards to Indians. However, unlike the United States, the Australian government officially reversed and dismantled these laws, and current policy in definition recognizes not only the natural rights of the Aboriginal peoples to their own lands and to services from the federal government, but also recognizes the history of harmful legislation and the racism that motivated it. Although I haven’t read much about more recent Federal Indian Policy, it seems to me that the attitude of the US towards the previous cases and legislature is to simply ignore the problems with it and pretend they never happened. However, this not only ignores an important and impactful part of history, but fails to acknowledge the ways that these outdated attitudes effect people and legislature today.