Memory in Native American Land Claims

Political Theory 33 (6):763 - 785 (2005)
Abstract
While claims for the return of expropriated land by Native Americans and other indigenous peoples are often evaluated using legal frameworks, such approaches fail to engage the fundamental moral questions involved. This essay outlines three justifications for Native Americans to pursue land claims: to regain properties where original ownership has not been superseded, to aid the long-term survival of their endangered cultures, and to challenge and revise the historical misremembering of mainstream American society. The third justification is most controversial. It asserts that understandings of history shape perceptions of the present, and that intensively pursued land claims can provide powerful challenges to inaccurate conceptions of the past. This essay argues that Native Americans are for this reason justified in strategically pursuing land claims that are difficult to justify on other grounds, and closes with some worries about the legitimate role of strategy in political action.
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