An Uncomfortable Truth: Law as a Weapon of Oppression of the Indigenous Peoples of Southern New England

35 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2022 Last revised: 9 Aug 2022

Date Written: July 5, 2022


Southern New England, today, is a de facto exception to much of U.S. Indian law and policy, with progress sustained by Indigenous peoples in the region at a bare minimum. The exception is the product of more than three hundred years of discrimination and persecution with law employed as the primary weapon. After the conclusion of seventeenth century military battles and warfare, colonial governments employed law as a weapon of oppression against the Indigenous peoples. With law as a weapon, they continued the persecution of the American Indians based on their belief of racial superiority. The campaign of persecution was accomplished with colonial and later state statutes and municipal law, and with judicial decisions. Judicial decisions by the United States Supreme Court evidenced an obvious belief of racial superiority and the inferiority of the American Indians which became the bedrock of American Indian law. Colonial law adopted theocratical canons which justified conquest based on European superiority and Christian belief. Incorporation of Papal canons of Indigenous inferiority into American law has never been repudiated nor repealed. The article details the history of law as a weapon of oppression in Southern New England, reviews in great details, oppressive colonial legislation and, finally, offers suggestions for healing the profound wounds of the past. It calls for the legal profession, for municipalities and for states to accept responsibility, be held accountable and take action to repair the wrongs of the past.

Keywords: Indigenous law, American Indian, Indian tribes, New England, Racial discrimination

JEL Classification: K

Suggested Citation

Diamond, James, An Uncomfortable Truth: Law as a Weapon of Oppression of the Indigenous Peoples of Southern New England (July 5, 2022). Roger Williams University Law Review, Vol. 27, No. 2, 2022, Roger Williams Univ. Legal Studies Paper Forthcoming, Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 22-15, Available at SSRN:

James Diamond (Contact Author)

James E. Rogers College of Law ( email )

Tucson, AZ
United States

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