In almost every source we have looked at, Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock has been compared to Dred Scott v. Sandford in order to try and summarize its significance the history of U.S. policy and Native rights. This comparison is in some ways apt—both cases were used to place minority peoples (black and Indian) outside of the protection of the Constitution and U.S. court system, while still holding them to U.S. laws, and both cases make ample use of racist language to justify these dehumanized political positions. But beyond this, is the comparison useful?
Leeds writes her piece based on the assumption that Indian policy in the U.S. is awaiting its Brown v. Board of Education ruling, but doesn’t fully develop what she means by this. Brown v. Board of Education rejected the “separate but equal” segregation laws based on the observation that the existing systems were inherently demeaning to one group. It was a step toward black Americans being viewed exactly the same under the law as white Americans. But many Indian people and tribes, including the individuals involved in Lone Wolf do not want to be identical under the law, many want the autonomy of a sovereign nation and the return of the land and resources that would support this possibility. But the comparison between black rights and native rights history in the United States fails to be meaningful in the context of sovereignty.
What is this author really asking for when she talks about “an Indian law Brown v. Board of Education”? It seems in the last three paragraphs that she is asking for and end to the racist ideology that allowed the Lone Wolf decision to be handed down and allows it to continue to function today. Leeds notes that legal discrimination against Indians is a unique case because tribes and their members do have a unique political category. The U.S. government created the label “domestic dependent nation” in order to strip tribes of many of their sovereign rights, and along with the plenary power doctrine, this move has allowed the U.S. to do virtually whatever they want to the tribes without any concrete consequences. It is clear that the type of language that refers to Indians as an “ignorant and dependent race” is unacceptable and must be eradicated from contemporarily practiced law before the courts can even begin to claim to be free of racism.