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Tribal justice in Mexico and the US



Commenting of the popular justice meted out in a Mexican village, Tim Brown comments: "Perhaps one of the reasons why Native Americans in the US rarely engage in what we often call vigilante type justice is because so many have their own recognized judicial systems. We live within blocks of a reservation that has its own police and court. Indian officers do not have official jurisdiction off the reservation except by consent of the Sheriff's office or Highway Patrol, and vice versa. In practical terms this system of consent works pretty much the way law enforcement cooperation works in general when the authorities feel they need to cooperate with one another.

Clashes of jurisdictions between them and non-reservation authorities do arise, although not often. There was recently an instance of such a clash in, I believe, Arizona, involving homicides against non-Native American tourists allegedly committed by members of the trive with territorial jurisdiction. Local and State authorities claimed jurisdiction because they felt the tribal court would not be objective. But, in general, in the West at least, the judicial autonomy of Native Americans on their reservations is honored, and works about as well as the judicial systems in the broader civil society, that is to say not perfectly but not badly either".

My comment: Poor Tim, living next to an Indian reservation, which must be a gambler's paradise or hell. I'm sure Tim will resist the temptation, but many will not. In some reservations the gamblers outnumber the Indians. The will make the issue of jurisdiction hopelessly difficult. Moreover, what if the Indian court imposed burial alive as in the Mexican case. Would the US simply stay out of the matter? Incidentally, I believe the Mexican incident took place in a mestizo village.

Ronald Hilton - 3/26/02


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