More on Clans and Tribal Law

A while back I wrote an article on Tribal Law and how it actually functioned and could function again. Well… it turns out that Tribal Law is in use everyday, in your community, right now. That is, most conflicts between people are interpersonal, have a long history between the people involved, and are resolved without involving the police or courts. Sometimes they are resolved through the committing of retaliatory crimes. This article explains how the legal system is mostly used to protect institutions from individuals and people of high status from people of low status. For the rest of us, we have to find some way to live peacefully alongside one another.

I assert that traditional tribal communities were anarchist communities, and a lot of our customs, traditions and culture reflect this. We lacked a central, over-arching authority and mostly handled conflict on a peer to peer basis and occasionally called in some wise chief or elder to help us settle a dispute if things started to spiral out of control. Obviously, none of us have embraced the word “anarchist.” All you have to do is attend one eye rolling meeting of kookie leftists to be completely turned off by that entire sub culture.

This all has pretty interesting ramifications for our current status. I think it explains my gut reaction against the Violence Against Women Act. I think it’s a fools quest to expect the legal system to protect society’s most vulnerable people. That job lies in our hands. Any step we take toward a more “law-ridden” society is not necessarily a step toward a more just or crime free society. We have to ask ourselves if over reliance on a system that has never served us is the answer, or whether we should instead be building our capacity to protect ourselves and one another on the ground level where it matters most.

About Vince

I am a Tlingit, born and raised in Tlingit Country, and a proud member of the Tlingit Nation.
This entry was posted in Building a Tlingit Nation, Decolonization. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to More on Clans and Tribal Law

  1. Frank Hopper says:

    What’s also sad is the corporate structure forced on us by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. We never had “chiefs” in our tribe, but now we have CEOs, lawyers, and accountants administrating resources that belong to all of us. Western civilization is all about accumulating and consolidating power. Indigenous culture is all about balance. What happened?

    • Vince says:

      I couldn’t agree more. ANCSA is certainly an imposed model that a portion of our people accepted under duress. It is certainly alien to our culture. I figure it is a classic colonial move: undermine traditional social structures and build institutions that serve the empire in their place. There are a myriad of examples of how this works in Alaska under ANCSA. It’s a pretty common critique that we traded self sufficiency for dependency. Not that we had much choice at the time.

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