Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2005


Published in Great Plains Research Vol. 15, No. 1, 2005. Copyright © 2005 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


Even casual observers know of disputes between Natives and non-Natives over governmental authority or natural resources. In the nearly forty years since tribes gained direct access to federal courts, they have been pursuing their rights with increasing fervor. With rare exceptions, those rights are declined in a treaty. Indeed. treaties provide the foundation for the hulk or the relationship between Tribal Nations and the United States and remain a vibrant source of tribal, international, and federal law. Nevertheless only a small fraction of the general public understands the text of these documents. Interpreting treaty language requires an understanding of the historical and political circumstances surrounding a treaty's making. Too often, decision makers seek a quick fix to difficult questions. Such an oversimplified. bright-line approach virtually ensures injustice for Native people --an acceptable result only to the beneficiaries of conquest who comprise the backlash against "special rights."