Nations And Borders: A Lesson From Tribal Nations

I don’t typically like to look at tribal people or tribal nations and make a lesson for non-Natives to enjoy. But the issue of borders is in the air and because I know a teensy bit about tribal nations, I thought I’d show non-Natives how things could be.

We generally see nations as akin to individuals. Just as individuals have free association and can make friends, so too can nations freely associate and form alliances (we hope).

There are some ways this analogy doesn’t hold, however. Individuals have a body, that may grow a bit and change over time. But nations may grow and change immensely in terms of their boundaries. In fact, in other places, I have suggested a nation may not even need a physical locale in order to be a nation proper.

I now wish to draw your attention to the area we know as Oklahoma. Oklahoma was originally known as “Indian Territory.” There’s a lot of tribal nations in what we now call Oklahoma, many of which were forcibly removed there.

But looking at tribal nations may show us how things could work if we wish to have a world without borders. Take a look at this map of present-day Oklahoma:

Here you see that much of the area is controlled, albeit in a limited way due to colonialism, by tribal nations.

If you’ve driven through Oklahoma, you will know that you can simply drive through, going from nation to nation.

This may not always be the way things are for tribal nations. As we move toward decolonization, these tribal nations may change. But this is how things are today. You can literally just drive through tribal nations freely, without a large, heavily defined border stopping you; without going through border patrol; without going through customs; without a passport.

I submit this for you to think about as we think about the United States’ borders. There are many ways in which we can change and grow. Having defined, heavily enforced borders may be something we wish to do away with. And tribal nations, as they are currently constructed, may show us how.