November 29th, 2006
Â (â€œNative America, Discovered and Conquered: Thomas Jefferson, Lewis & Clark, and Manifest Destinyâ€ by Robert J. Miller, Praeger Publishers, 240 pages, $49.95.)Â
Robert Miller, in his voluminous work â€œNative America, Discovered and Conquered,â€ very ably and methodically deconstructs the winking inexorableness that permeates narrative history of the American West. In a wholly new and focused voice, Miller traces the Doctrine of Discovery from its European roots through to its present-day ramifications on the land tenure of Native tribes and resource scarcity issues in the West.
Native America establishes that the settlement of the United States was first and foremost an expression of supposed religious sanctification â€” the European Doctrine of Discovery permeated colonial, state and federal governmental law and policy from the dawning of America. Thomas Jefferson eventually sent Lewis and Clark westward under his belief in this doctrine of the divine European right to own “discovered” lands, whether occupied or not. Miller traces the doctrine through papal decrees, the crusades and broader Christian concepts of what constituted infidels, a concept not foreign to Lewis, Clark or Jefferson.
What makes Miller’s â€œNative Americaâ€ such a compelling read is not only his unique style but also his clear commitment to original scholarly legal research. From the very first Supreme Court applying the Doctrine of Discovery in the seminal Indian land title case Johnson v. M’Intosh, to the coining of the phrase “Manifest Destiny” by a mid-19th century journalist, Miller pulls us through time along a common and, heretofore, not well understood thread of history.Â We come to understand how the doctrine shapes every aspect of our contemporary experience as Americans, from the landscapes we look out upon, to the socio-economic conditions on Native reservations, to the very water we drink.
To say this book is required reading for those wishing to understand American history is an understatement. Miller has provided an opportunity for readers with varying interests â€” from Constitutional law professor to tribal advocate to public lands users of all types â€” to gain valuable insight into the interconnected web of religion, conquest, human rights, land and equity.Â One comes away from reading Miller’s â€œNative Americaâ€ with a meaningful sense of how irresponsible, and illusory, a folly it is to allow a sense of Providence to blindly guide such things as constitutionally protected rights, domestic and foreign policy with other nations and the relationship and “dominion” over Nature and other “nonbelievers.” This is an important time for this book to be published, and one can hope that it will be well read.
Book signing Sept. 24Robert Miller, associate professor, Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Ore.,Â will speak at a book signing Sept. 24 at 2 p.m. at A Novel Idea Bookstore, 118 N. 14th St. For more information, call 475-8663.
Craig Jacobson, vice president for Native Programs of Ecotrust, a regional conservation organization headquartered in Portland, Ore., is a practicing attorney who specializes in environmental and Native law, and speaks and teaches frequently on these topics.