Publication of the week: Dr Sarah Sargent

3 May 2017

Sargent, S., “Truth and Consequences: Law, Myth and Metaphor in American Indian Contested Adoption”, Liverpool Law Review (2017) 38: 47. doi:10.1007/s10991-017-9193-7.

This article considers the effects of the operations of myth and metaphor on law through a comparison of a United States Supreme Court decision and a novel that deal with the contested trans-racial adoption of an American Indian child. It argues that the United States founding myth of Manifest Destiny—of the divinely ordained fate of the continent to host a (white) Christian state—is determinative of the way in which legal decisions regarding American Indians are made. The myth of Manifest Destiny contains a metaphor of vanished American Indians, such that contemporary American Indians are rendered nearly invisible and whose existence is not easily absorbed into the working of the American legal system. The American Indian Child Welfare Act provides protections against assimilation for indigenous families and community, thus working at cross-purposes to the ultimate aim of Manifest Destiny. What happens in those instances when legal provisions and interpretation run counter to Manifest Destiny? Through the consideration of the situation of a contested adoption, this article reveals the heavy influence of Manifest Destiny in the Supreme Court decision, which is counter to the vision of a pluralistic culture envisioned in both the novel and the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) itself. The consequences of legal resistance to ICWA for American Indian communities and as to the operation of the legal system itself are discussed.

Read more on the Liverpool Law Review website.

Dr Sarah Sargent is the stream convener (since 2009) for the indigenous and minority rights stream for the annual SLSA conference. Her ongoing research interests focus on issues of culture and cultural heritage, as well as legal theory, and the rights of indigenous peoples.