Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

August 1995


Published in Great Plains Research 5:2 (Fall 1995). Copyright © 1995 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


The goal of Indian termination policy in the 1950s was to eliminate the reservations and thus eradicate the "Indian problem." Frank Pommersheim, professor of law at the University of South Dakota and member of the appellate court for the Cheyenne River and Rosebud Sioux tribes, convincingly argues that eliminating reservations would be disastrous for Indian tribes in the west. The establishment of reservations guaranteed tribes a measured separatism; today, they are the only places where tribes and their cultures are likely to survive. The author examines the portions ofthe United States legally designated Indian country and finds that Indian land is "basic to Indian people." Indian homelands offer tribes a base for developing economies and maintaining cultures.

Non-Indians who see reservations essentially as places of poverty, alcoholism, and despair are not perceiving through Indian eyes. Pommersheim, offering a reexamination of Indian country through reservations eyes, asserts that the reservation is much more than desolate land: it is a place of hope. Tribal members are committed to the reservation not merely as land, but as a place. The first chapter, on the reservation as place, is the cornerstone of this study of Indian law, since "it is this commitment to the reservation as place that undergirds all the central legal struggles in Indian country about land, water, natural resources, and jurisdiction" (p. 8).