In the midst of the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy, Trump’s transition team has suggested that it may pursue efforts to “privatize” Indian reservation lands as a way of circumventing regulatory hurdles that stand in the way of Tribal oversight of operations such as drilling and other types of resource extraction.
Now, “privatization” is one of those words that can mean any number of things, and in this case, the true meaning is especially murky given the complexity of the relationship between Tribal governments and the United States federal government.
There is little doubt that for many leftwing and rightwing activists, the term “privatization” will elicit very different reactions. For many rightwing activists, the term will spell an opportunity to start selling off tribal lands piecemeal in the pursuit of allegedly more “efficient” ownership outside the influence of Tribal governments. Perhaps it might even be a chance to get rid of the Tribes completely. For leftwing activists, it will mean largely the same thing, except for them, this will be an overwhelmingly negative development and even lead to what is known as “Indian termination” which was a federal policy to undermine tribal sovereignty.
Hopefully, when the Trump team speaks of privatization, it intends to pursue neither of these options, and really means it only intends to put Tribal lands out of the reach of federal regulators.
Read the rest at the Mises Institute.