[Tagging] Feature Proposal - Voting - boundary=aboriginal_lands

Kevin Kenny kevin.b.kenny at gmail.com
Tue Nov 27 14:51:33 UTC 2018

On 11/26/18 6:35 PM, Clifford Snow wrote:
> I can't speak for other countries so I'll limit my comments to the US. 
> As Kevin Kenny commented, tribes in the US are recognized as domestic 
> dependent nations.  But from there it gets messy. They can set their 
> own sales tax separate from the state and have their own courts. Yet 
> in North Dakota, the state determines voting requirements. For this 
> reason I don't think admin_level works very well.

1. admin_level doesn't work in the US, period.

2. There's no good answer, but admin_level=3 might be a good compromise.

3. Occasionally the First Nations function as countries.

4. Just what the First Nations are is a political question with about 
four hundred years of bloody history. Occasional bloodshed continues to 
this day. We're not going to come up with a satisfactory answer here.


There is no administrative unit in the US - except or the states and 
perhaps the counties (which not all states have) for which admin_level 
really works well. Counties in New York can set their own sales tax, and 
so can chartered Cities, two of which cross county lines. Landowners in 
a Village owe property tax to both the Village and the Town - and maybe 
a sixth of the Villages are in more than one Town. It's *all* messy.

And that's without accounting for special administrative districts for 
schools, libraries, police, garbage, sewers, fire brigades, water 
supply, ... New York has dozens of different flavors, none of which is 
constrained to the boundaries of anything else, and all of them have 
elected [or state-appointed] officials and the power to tax. We've never 
tried to settle how to tag these in OSM - we simply don't map the 
limited-purpose admin areas such as school districts.

The Europeans think the US system is totally insane, but it mostly 
works. In any case, it has to be a case of "we map what we have." Too 
often, what we hear from some individuals on this list is not very far 
removed from, "the tagging model is fine; fix your country!" That, of 
course, is not really an option that's available to us in the near future.


As far as 'aboriginal lands' go, I'd be happy with either 
boundary=administrative or else a new sui generis boundary type. If it 
is to be 'administrative', I'd argue for the otherwise unused 
'admin-level' of 3, a compromise among a set of political alternatives 
that range from '2' (a country whose rights happen to be denied) to 
nothing at all (an illegitimate country issuing 'fantasy passports' with 
no more legal existence than self-proclaimed 'micro-nations'). Like all 
compromises, it will satisfy nobody, but at least acknowledge that a 
diversity of opinion exists.


The larger among the First Nations surely have a messy status.

Some issue passports. The Cayuga statesman Levi General Deskaheh 
traveled to Great Britain in 1917 and Geneva in 1923 on a Haudenosaunee 
passport to plead for recognition of his people by the British crown and 
at the League of Nations. As recently as 2018, athletes from the 
Haudenosaunee Confederacy traveled on Haundenosaunee passports to 
compete in world-level events. Israel accepted the Haudenosaunee 
passport for their admission, and Canada, while not recognizing tribal 
sovereignty, offered assurances that the competitors would be 
repatriated. The US players crossed the US-Canada border at Akwesasne, 
where a US-UK treaty that allows FIrst Nations natives to pass has been 
in force - although often violated - since 1792. The US, Canada, and the 
Schengen nations, however, emphatically do *not* recognize the 
Haudenosaunee authority to issue passports.


Referring to the Haudenosaunee as a 'tribe' is ... strange. The Six 
Nations are a federal republic with a constitution which they adopted in 
1142.  unwritten but widely memorized, since it has religious 
significance. Despite the oral nature of the history, it can be dated 
accurately because of an account of a solar eclipse. There is ample 
evidence that it was functioning as a republic in 1603, when Champlain 
first encountered them, and they were still functioning as such in 1722, 
when the Tuscarora Nation was admitted as a sixth member nation of the 
Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The Confederacy was, in some ways, the model 
for the US system of separate Federal and State sovereignty - and the 
Framers of the Constitution were well aware of it.

North Dakota, as you mention, is an odd case. It does not 'determine' 
the voting requirements for citizens of the dependent nations. It (along 
with fifteen other states) has power delegated to it by Congress to 
enforce Federal and tribal law on the reservations, and as such, is 
responsible for upholding the rights that the tribes have determined. 
It's an executive, not a legislative authority. In th The local sheriff, 
the tribal police, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the FBI all have 
jurisdiction to enforce Federal and tribal law. The resulting 
jurisdictional conflict breaks out in violence sporadically. Except as 
delegated by the Congress, the States have no authority over the 
reservations - they are enforcing Federal and tribal law, not their own.

To the extent that tribal sovereignty is recognized, it is organic and 
allodial. It is not delegated to the tribes by the US Constitution. 
Rather, the US Constitution recognizes it as something already in 
existence. The three places that the Constitution mentions the 
indigenous people, it recognizes them as separate - empowering Congress 
to conduct diplomacy with them, excluding their numbers from the census 
(and hence from determining Congressional representation), and excluding 
them from certain provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The scheme that I describe has really existed only since 1970 or so, 
when there was a seismic shift in US policy from 'termination' - the 
natives would all be assimilated into US language and culture, and the 
need for reservations would therefore disappear in time - to 
'self-determination,' where at least the larger reservations were 
recognized as domestic dependent nations, with the US as protector of 
their rights in a scheme determined by the Congress.

The best description of 'aboriginal lands' in the US is that the most 
organized ones are defeated nations, whose sovereignty is still 
recognized by the conquering power but frequently abrogated.

This status ties into the whole 'disputed border' discussion, too, of 

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