One thing I found important in this chapter that is relevant to other chapters in the book, particularly Kēhaulani Kauanuiʻs chapter on “The Politics of Hawaiian Blood and Sovereignty in Rice v. Cayetano,” is the concern that “conservative political interests” use reverse racism arguments to intentionally mischaracterize Indigenous peoples as only ethnic minorities with no recognizable claims to self-determination and self-governance (23-24). She argues that Indigenous people have been resisting such claims for some time. For example, she discusses indigenous mobilization at the international level: “By taking on the self-determination of peoples with group and individual rights to self-determination, indigenous leaders were claiming a difference from minorities and a status akin to the status of nations“ (19). These goals at the international level (to be recognized as having a unique legal/political status is also akin to what numerous Indigenous communities strive for at the “domestic-national” level. In the U.S., this is often called federal recognition; federal recognition reaffirms a political identity rather than a racial one and thus escapes the Supreme Court’s strict scrutiny as seen in Morton v. Mancari.
The background information on federal Indian law sets up his discussion of the subject identified in the chapter’s title, the Makah. No one can read this chapter without understanding the integral role that whaling plays in Makah culture, which makes the Makah culturally unique. Miller argues that this is an instance of cultural self-determination, a term he introduces early on in the chapter. Miller explains, “cultural self-determination is intimately tied to tribal sovereignty and the rights of self-determination for American Indian and Alaska Native tribes. This is so because native groups will decide form themselves what cultural practices to preserve, and they will use their political power and sovereign status to fight for those rights” (123). As Miller explains, this allows the Makah to act politically to protect and maintain their unique culture.