In his essay, Professor Bassett traces the roots of the “myth of the nomad,” a myth which was used to justify the dispossession and destruction of Native Americans by colonial settlers. Bassett's primary focus is on a careful exposition of the sources and uses of the myth. The historical evidence he presents is persuasive and interesting, and his analysis is often thought-provoking.
I find myself, however, in some disagreement with Bassett over the function this type of work serves. While Bassett recognizes that “[w]e are all creators of myths,” he insists that we should “bring to light” the myths in the law and expose their “insidious uses[s].” As Bassett observes, the first-year property course offers numerous opportunities for the unmasking of such myths. Bassett seems to suggest that we view his fascinating essay as one such attempt to “demythologize the law.”
It is not possible, nor would it be desirable, to “demythologize” the law. The law is constructed upon, and often even constituted by, myths. The effort to eliminate those myths would produce legal concepts that were far less human, and probably no more humane. Our task, as both teachers and scholars, should be to recognize and evaluate the myths we use, but not necessarily to abandon them. Bassett's essay offers a fine beginning for this project of understanding.