Donald Trump isn’t the only person in America currently accusing a non-white judge of being impartial. The Supreme Court will soon hear the case Dollar General v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, in which a corporation is trying to argue that it is not subject to sovereign tribal courts.
To investigate the issue, Samantha Bee visited the Cherokee reservation in North Carolina, a different reservation in a different state, to understand tribal law. In her words, Bee went in expecting a “charmingly backwoods justice system where peyote-addled elders rendered verdicts,” only to find the Cherokee Supreme Court was much like every other courthouse in America.
“The reality is our court functions much like every other state and federal court in the United States,” Cherokee Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Boyum said. “That’s not saying our tribal court is perfect. No court is perfect. All we’re asking is to be treated like every other court in the United States.”
Enter Elaine Willman, whose organization Citizens’ Equal Rights Alliance “opposes tribal sovereignty, works to take back native lands, and rallies with local lawmakers and senators to undo contracts tribes have with the federal government,” Bee explained. According to Willman, tribal courts are too powerful, can’t be trusted, and are somehow connected to Sharia law. And yet, thanks to judicial restraints placed on tribal courts by the U.S. Supreme Court, they actually have very little power. Most notably, tribal courts do not have jurisdiction over crimes in their territory involving a non-tribe member, even if the victim is part of the tribe. The only recourse left for many tribal victims is to seek damages in tribal civil court — a method that Dollar General is currently petitioning the Supreme Court to further restrain.
“There’s a certain amount of people who, once they learn they can commit crimes without being punished, are going to do it again,” Boyum said.
“So what you’re saying is Americans are coming over tribal borders, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, some you assume are good people?” Bee said. “Where have I heard that before?”
Watch the clip below.