Publication Title

Vermont Law Review


Indian tribes

Document Type



My target audience is the body of extraordinary law students here at the Vermont Law School who will define the shape and direction of tomorrow's environmental law. My plan is to derive five virtues of significant achievement—genius, high-leveraging, symbolism, optimism, and courage—and to convince you that the Indian tribes of the United States are fortuitously blessed with these capacities for positive change.

I am obliged to defend my five virtues against the charge that they are "gray" virtues, mere tactics of opportunity open to use by the forces of hatred and destruction as freely as those of nurturing and protection. This charge, and the terrorist example we unforgettably learned on September 11, 2001, oblige me to identify a sixth virtue of nondestructive change, which I will call "commitment to the past."

Environmentalists have this commitment and it enables them to work creatively toward saving life on earth. The Indian tribes have it too, and it puts them in the dual role of catalyst for change and protector of orthodoxy.

[This is an expanded text of the 2002 Waterman Lecture given at the Vermont Law School.]



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