Sawnawgezewog: "The Indian Problem" and the Lost Art of Survival

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Part I of this article examines three older Supreme Court decisions, the cases that form the backdrop of modem Indian Law as interpreted and enforced by federal courts, the federal government, and even Indian tribes. Part II examines five Supreme Court cases decided in the so-called Modem Era of Indian Law and the species of cases that followed each specific decision. Part III of this article explores a hypothetical scenario in which a small Indian tribe in Michigan learns that the mythical Fountain of Youth actually exists and that it is situated on land owned in trust for the benefit of the tribe by the federal government; how that tribe acquires self-reliance; and how Congress decides to solve "the Indian Problem" with one swift stroke.

In its conclusion, this article calls for practitioners to assess the impact that federal and state litigation has on the everyday world of Indians throughout the United States. The meaning of Indian Law cases are right there on the page in black and white, buried beneath blank citations to the Marshall Trilogy, the Indian Reorganization Act, the special canon for construction of Indian statutes and treaties, and all the rest - the faceless boilerplate of Federal Indian Law. Most importantly, this article asks tribal attorneys (and tribal leaders) to look to a future where many Indian tribes will gamer unprecedented political power. We should be aware of the possible pitfalls and the potential advantages.

All of the cases reviewed in this article have been carefully analyzed and revisited by academics and practitioners alike in a plethora of excellent books, articles, and other commentary.' It is easy for new tribal attorneys to lose sight of the forest for all the trees when reviewing and analyzing Federal Indian Law. Yet it is all right there if one takes the time to look for it.


Work published when author not on Michigan Law faculty.