Today is Native American Heritage Day. Respect and Protect Native Families.

The day after Thanksgiving is “Native American Heritage Day,” since 2008 by law (as poetic injustice? irony? Where was law from 1606 to 2008?)

I think it might be presumptuous and maybe tone-deaf to wish anyone a “Happy Native American Heritage Day” today, but I’ll invite members of the Native community to share their thoughts.

To be honest, when I think “Black Friday,” I think of what happened after the myth of Plymouth, the 1621 feast followed by famine and removal of indigenous peoples. And as we drive around today for all our packages, let’s reflect how today’s crazed commercialist “Black Friday” is a very American re-packaging of the capitalist/commercialist legacy after what Thanksgiving Thursday also re-packaged.

And do we even pause on the irony of calling today “Black Friday” when the same legacy after the Plymouth myth of 1621 was so soon after 1619, the arrival of two dozen Africans in Viriginia on the English ship “White Lion”? (How is that for on-the-nose color coding?)

We should be thankful every last Thursday of November.

The day after, I acknowledge as an American, whose ancestors were lucky enough to make it out of Eastern Europe alive, and whose wife’s family fled Nazi Germany to eventually settle in Canada, that we have the luck and privilege to live on stolen land that we inherited by theft, murder, and colonialism.

And that great privilege comes with great responsibility.

That privilege and responsibility is before the Supreme Court this term in Haaland v. Brackeen and the integrity of the Native American family.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the courageous Nikole Hannah-Jones and her team, and I am thankful for the many Native American scholars who are writing and speaking truth, such as Maggie Blackhawk (NYU Law), who is writing the influential Foreword to this year’s Harvard Law Review, and Elizabeth Hidalgo Reese (Yunpovi) (Stanford Law), who published “The Other American Law” in the Stanford Law Review last year and recently gave this powerful interview on a Slate podcast about the Supreme Court case and the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Make Reparations. Respect Sovereignty. Respect the Native American family.


Author: Jed Shugerman

Jed Handelsman Shugerman is a Professor at Fordham Law School. He received his B.A., J.D., and Ph.D. (History) from Yale. His book, The People’s Courts (Harvard 2012), traces the rise of judicial elections, judicial review, and the influence of money and parties in American courts. It is based on his dissertation that won the 2009 ASLH’s Cromwell Prize. He is co-author of amicus briefs on the history of presidential power, the Emoluments Clauses, the Appointments Clause, the First Amendment rights of elected judges, and the due process problems of elected judges in death penalty cases. He is currently working on two books on the history of executive power and prosecution in America. The first is tentatively titled “A Faithful President: The Founders v. the Unitary Executive,” questioning the textual and historical evidence for the theory of unchecked and unbalanced presidential power. This book draws on his articles “Vesting” (Stanford Law Review forthcoming 2022), “Removal of Context” (Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities 2022), a co-authored “Faithful Execution and Article II” (Harvard Law Review 2019 with Andrew Kent and Ethan Leib), “The Indecisions of 1789” (forthcoming Penn. Law Review), and “The Creation of the Department of Justice,” (Stanford Law Review 2014). The second book project is “The Rise of the Prosecutor Politicians: Race, War, and Mass Incarceration,” focusing on California Governor Earl Warren, his presidential running mate Thomas Dewey, the Kennedys, World War II and the Cold War, the war on crime, the growth of prosecutorial power, and its emergence as a stepping stone to electoral power for ambitious politicians in the mid-twentieth century.

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