Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

February 1993


Published in Great Plains Research 3:1 (February 1993), pp. 127-128. Copyright © 1993 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Used by permission.


For observers following the Sioux Nation's legal and legislative struggles over Black Hills land claims, historical contextualization has been stunningly incomplete. The reader can find numerous detailed accounts of nineteenth century military conflict, the Treaties of 1851 and 1868, and the Agreement of 1877. The political rhetoric that followed the 1980 Supreme Court decision ending America's longest running legal battle makes up an equally voluminous body of material. Between the two points lies a poorly illuminated century of legal maneuvering and Sioux activism and cultural change.

Informed by a legal education and the insights of social history, Edward Lazarus has sifted through the briefs and opinions to cast a bright light on the judicial maneuvers that unfolded during the dim decades of the mid-twentieth century. But the book offers more than a straightforward legal history. As its title implies, Black Hills/White Justice contains a series of twinned narratives in which different worlds collide in both misunderstanding and symbiotic interaction. The intertwined stories of native people and non-Indians, "traditionals" and "progressives," personable bumblers and cold legal craftsmen weave a compelling and disturbing fabric around larger distinctions between moral justice and rational law and, in the end, between Lakota and American societies.