African American members of the Washitaw de Dugdahmoundyah religious movement claim to be legal heirs to the land annexed by the United States in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The Washitaw frame and advance this claim via legal discourse based upon counterfactual religious readings of the law, which they take to be universal, authoritative, and efficacious. The latter view, shared by various related communities, draws further validation from even negative encounters with the legal establishment. This article examines the Washitaw movement’s legal interpretations, particularly in the movement’s foundational text, Return of the Ancient Ones, and the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Henry Turner’s Heirs.

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