Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Research Vol. 20 No. 2, 2010


Copyright © 2010 by the Center for Great Plains Studies. University of Nebraska-Lincoln


The legacies of allotment on reservations—fractionated heirship and dispossession most notably—have been apparent to numerous observers since the early 20th century. In Unearthing Indian Land: Living with the Legacies of Allotment, Kristin T. Ruppel explores contemporary efforts on the part of several Native individuals to correct more than a century of land tenure questions and outright fraud. Although such efforts have potential impact throughout Indian country, Unearthing Indian Land focuses on the local efforts of activists such as Ernee Werelus at Fort Hall in Idaho and Helen Sanders on the Quinault Reservation in Washington. Ruppel correctly traces the origins of Indian land definitions and interpretations to European colonization and, more specifically, to the early 19th-century Marshall Court trilogy of decisions related to Cherokee removal. The author gives less attention to the actual General Allotment Act of 1887 and Burke Act of 1906, which became the more direct mechanisms for Native land tenure difficulties in the 20th century. Despite this imbalance, the warren of regulations and case law surrounding Indian land becomes all too clear in the book. Much of the discussion in Unearthing Indian Land by necessity includes legal descriptions.