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The "Prisonification" of Native People

Ogden, Stormy, "W-20170/Other: A Native Woman and Former Prisoner Speaks Out"


Abstract: Ogden begins by discussing her Indian heritage (Yokuts and Pomo) and the history of her people in what is considered California today. Ogden discusses her unique struggle to not only maintain a sense of self, within a system that isolates and degrades individuals, but also her Indian identity. She describes being "medicated the entire time" she was incarcerated and being fearful of receiving incompetent medical treatment. Ogden characterizes her imprisonment as "just another part of the historically violent mechanisms of colonization" that have resulted in the disproportionate rates of incarceration of Native adults and children. She views criminalization of Native peoples as another imperialist tool (along with the bottle and the bible) to control Native lands and deny Native sovereignty, and she describes the imposition of the U.S. criminal justice system in Indian Country as a form of racism and social control.

Lastly, Ogden identifies three main legal principles that the U.S. government utilizes to justify its jurisdiction of and actions in Indian Country.

  • The Plenary Power Doctrine, which originally asserted that Congress had sole and absolute power to negotiate with Native peoples, but in fact has been used to deny Native rights and sovereignty despite treaties between Indian nations and the U.S. government that are both an implicit and an explicit recognition of Native sovereignty.
  • The Federal-Indian Trust Doctrine, the basis of the 1832 Worcester v. Georgia case, which was defined as the unique moral and legal duty of the United States to assist Indians in the protection of their property and rights-not unlike the relationship between guardians and their wards.
  • Surveillance or threat of surveillance that maintains data about people's activities or enhances self-censorship;
  • The "Doctrine of Geographical Incorporation," which claims that since Indian lands (i.e. reservations) are located within U.S. boundaries, the United States holds title to all of those lands, which are reserved for the use of Native peoples, and that the United States has the right to assert legal jurisdiction over these lands as well as to abolish title at any time.



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