I would like to take issue with one of the points raised by Miss Nichols in her article "America the Beautiful: On Whose Land?" (Vol. 2, Nos. 9 and 10). First, let me make it clear that in raising this point I am not in any way defending the actions of the US government in its long history of lies, deceit, theft, and outright murder of Indians; nor am I defending the "manifest destiny" types or their more sophisticated technocratic descendants of today. My concern is only that truth and justice not be obscured by righteous indignation.
First of all, Miss Nichols seems to want to have it both ways, as far as the collectivism/racism issue is concerned. On the one hand, she goes to great lengths to point out (quite correctly) that the various Indian tribes were and are quite distinct, each with social, cultural, and technological forms of their own, so that to speak collectively of "the Indians" is grossly incorrect. Yet Miss Nichols persists in speaking as "we Indians" as if all were the same. This may seem like a minor point, but when the subject of land ownership comes up, it is of vital importance.
Miss Nichols adequately demolishes the cultivation theory of land ownership and comes up with the alternate "use and occupancy" criterion. In a general way, this criterion seems to be just and reasonable. The difficulty lies in determining the nitty-gritty details of just exactly what constitutes "use," and how much occupancy is "occupancy." Miss Nichols has raised an extremely complex and important issue here, but she has not followed through. She appears to be saying that "the Indians" used and occupied all the land that constitutes North America and therefore that "they" own it all. What she has failed to do is to apply her knowledge of the myriad of different customs, modes of living, and land use of the various tribes, to determine which tribes can validly claim to have used and occupied which land, and by what specific criteria of use and occupancy. (Suppose I discover an uninhabited valley 100 miles long—am I using and occupying it if I build a cabin in one corner and go on hunting trips in it twice a year? How much can I own—and why?)
This is a question which deserves the most careful thought and analysis. I'm not at all sure what the answer is, but I haven't heard much scholarship on the subject from libertarians. (In fact, I've heard of some who claim that land cannot be owned at all). If anyone has any suggestions as to the specific criteria required for land ownership, I'd be interested in hearing them.
I have been released from military servitude nine months early due to my insistence on being dealt with by a moral standard which recognizes my human rights and due to my "unacceptable" attitudes and actions resulting from my firmly held moral convictions.
Although the military establishment saw fit to 'slightly' handicap me—after violating my right to determine the course of my life—when I demanded that my rights be recognized and that I be given my freedom, I have won one battle—in freedom's name—of the war that is being levied against 'irrationalism'.
Your publication aided my victory; it gave me some of the weaponry I had to have to fight my 'first' major battle. The fact that I chose to fight that battle is your payment.
R. Powelson, Civilian
Albuquerque, N. M.
Enclosed is a copy of the Charlottesville Pledge. Please note that it is essentially the same method of fighting the draft advocated by Mr. Friedlander in the Mar/April issue. I should think it a boon to the efforts of libertarians to topple the draft Proposition B, by the way has been stricken from the pledge. Thus, anyone still carrying a draft card may sign the pledge, assured that his signature will be counted.
This is a Pledge not a Petition—Understand that Before You Sign
My signature on this pledge means four things.
A. I feel that the present draft system in America is in violation of my constitutional rights and/or simply immoral.
B. I am nevertheless presently cooperating with the system, and am liable to be inducted into the armed forces or some type of alternate service.
C. I pledge that, when a hundred thousand draft-able men have signed pledges like this, I will return my draft card to my local or national resistance headquarters where it will be forwarded with the other returned cards to the proper authorities. I pledge that after that time I will cease to cooperate with any type of draft system in any way.
D. I recognize that I am in no way immune from Federal prosecution either for resisting the draft or conspiring to resist the draft.
Address at present
Please return to: 128
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".