Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

February 1993


Published in Great Plains Research 3:1 (February 1993), pp. 61-93. Copyright © 1993 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Used by permission.


In 1976, a study by the Judicial Services Division of the Bureau of Indian Affairs concluded that insufficient information is available on Indian tribal courts, suggesting that they have been largely ignored by historians and political scientists alike. By examining a specific court the Oglala Sioux Tribal Court a fuller understanding of its vital role in the operation of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation can be gained.

From 1870 to the present, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Court has experienced a series of changes dictated by federal Indian policy including the replacement of tribal legal traditions with federal laws such as the Major Crimes Act of 1885. The passage of the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) in 1934 and the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 brought a new era to the tribal court. Today, severe budget restrictions and increasingly high crime rates have created problems for the Oglala Sioux Tribal Court. Nevertheless, the court has become the linchpin for effective tribal control of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.