I hope you are well; congratulations on your imminent retirement.
The Supreme Court has a job opening; it is in dire need of a certain kind of wisdom. I suggest that you seriously consider a type of wisdom that is the exact opposite of the thinking that most recently occupied the position. We need a wisdom that recognizes the need to keep things together as opposed to tearing things apart.
In that regard, President Obama, please consider nominating one of the most resourceful, compassionate and judicious people in the world, a Native woman. Specifically, consider Diane Humetewa, a citizen of the Hopi Nation, to the Supreme Court. Of course she has all of the objective credentials that are so important to the muckety mucks—great law school, former US Attorney (first Native woman US Attorney, nominated by Republican George W. Bush). Unanimous confirmation to serve as a US District Court Judge, where she still sits today. She has qualifications.
But most importantly, she will help keep things together and help to heal this nation in a way that only Indigenous women can.
As you are very well aware, there’s been a lot of conversation in recent weeks about nominating a Supreme Court justice to replace Antonin Scalia. Of course we’re not going to pile on the dead—comfort to those in mourning—but since he was a public figure, it’s fair to point out the fruits of his professional life. Suffice it to say Scalia did a lot to hurt vulnerable communities. For example, in Employment Division v. Smith, Scalia gave permission for the State of Oregon to discriminate against members of the Native American Church in a way that hadn’t been lawful for thirty years. It seemed that it was ok to do that because that religious group was made up of Native people.
Similarly, Scalia trolled homosexuality many times. For example, in the case Romer v. Evans Scalia said, “Of course it is our moral heritage that one should not hate any human being or class of human beings. But I had thought that one could consider certain conduct reprehensible—murder, for example, or polygamy, or cruelty to animals—and could exhibit even ‘animus’ toward such conduct. Surely that is the only sort of ‘animus’ at issue here: moral disapproval of homosexual conduct[.]”
Most recently, in Fisher v. University of Texas-Austin, Scalia likewise trolled black people. He suggested to the attorney representing the University of Texas that maybe black students didn’t belong at the University. “There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less — a slower-track school where they do well…”
While this letter is not about Scalia it’s important to contextualize the previous employee and to explain why the Supreme Court needs a profoundly different sort of worldview.
By contrast, Ms. Humetewa is a member of one of those vulnerable groups that Scalia tended to pick on. She is a Native woman and Native women tend to have amazing powers when it comes to making functional, pragmatic decisions with world-shaking implications. Of course you are aware how Native communities were violently shaken and pushed to their existential limits by white colonialism and the Manifest Destiny approach employed by the United States government. The tangible manifestations of that approach were the murder of some sixty million buffalo to kill Native peoples’ primary food source. It also manifest by the abduction and terrorization of over 100,000 Native children in boarding schools where they were indoctrinated with the gospel that the white way is right and that our Native ways that have sustained us for tens of thousands of years were wrong, evil, ugly and repugnant.
That approach manifested itself with the enslavement of Native people, the decimation of millions of our people and the wholesale stealing of our lands. It continues until this day through such socio-economic indicators as Native people being the most likely to be murdered by police violence, by Native people having the lowest life expectancy of any people on this continent and the highest suicide rates of any community.
Yet, in spite of all the many obstacles, traps, snags and entanglements that the United States government, white supremacy and Manifest Destiny created that were intended to wipe Native people off the face of the earth, Native women largely kept us together. We’re here. Somehow. And it was largely through the wisdom, resourcefulness and spiritual strength of Native women keeping together a community whose self-esteem and very lives were constantly in jeopardy. From the moment Europeans first stumbled onto these shores, our future has never been secure. But we remain and although we might not be where we want to be, we have gotten stronger.
Which brings me to today. It seems like this nation, this USA, is in jeopardy of falling apart at the seams. Hateful rhetoric, insecurity about the future and existential crises is ripping at the edges. We need folks at all levels who are healers and who know how to provide some assurance to the nervous.
Let’s be clear, President: on the merits alone, she is as qualified as any of the current Supreme Court justices. However (and maybe more importantly), outside of the amazing objective qualifications that Diane Humetewa possesses, she’ll provide Native woman wisdom and clarity to offset that hate, insecurity and divisive rhetoric that has taken over a good portion of the national rhetoric. Point blank: we don’t need any more of the current worldview, Republican or Democrat, to determine where our nation is going. We have a lot of that. We need some good ol’ Indigenous wisdom, some Hopi wisdom, and most importantly, some Indigenous Hopi Woman Wisdom to help balance out the Supreme Court AND this nation.
It’s time to recognize the ability of Indigenous women to restore the balance to not only our communities, but to all people; in fact, it’s long overdue. Thank you.
Gyasi Ross, Editor at Large
Blackfeet Nation/Suquamish Territories