Any day now the Supreme Court is going to make a decision in Mississippi Band of Choctaws vs Dollar General Corp.
In 2003, a 13-year-old boy participated in a youth-opportunity job program. Through the program, the teenager was paid by his tribe, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, to work at a Dollar General store on Tribal Trust land. He would get work experience, the Dollar General would get free labor. But something terrible happened: While on the job, the 13-year-old says he was sexually assaulted several times by the store’s manager, Dale Townsend. His parents brought an action against Dollar General in Tribal Court, seeking monetary compensation for pain and suffering and to cover the youth’s medical and trauma recovery expenses. The retailer retaliated with a lawsuit of its own, arguing that the Mississippi Band of Choctaws should not have jurisdiction over Dollar General, because the corporate giant is non-Indian. So far, two lower US courts have agreed that the tribe does in fact have civil jurisdiction over Dollar General. But now the case is facing the Supreme Court.
If ruled in Dollar General’s favor, the case could make the crisis of sexual violence in Indian country even worse. 4 in 5 Native Americans have been raped, stalked or abused in their lifetime. 1 in 3 Native women has been raped, stalked or abused in the past year. Almost all (90% of women and 85% of men) of Native survivors have been assaulted by someone who is not Native.
If Dollar General wins no Native American Nation will be able to hear any civil case involving a non-Native person or corporation. This means tribes would no longer be able to issue protective orders against non-Native people abusing or stalking their citizens.
American Indian Tribes are sovereign Nations, like the US or Switzerland, with their own land, citizens, laws and court systems. Their independent existence pre-dates the existence of the United States.
Share your thoughts and support for tribal sovereignty #ShameOnDollarGeneral.
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Indian Country Media Today Network