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Indian Law
University of Mississippi School of Law
Barnes, Richard L.

Indian Law Outline
Spring 2007
Professor Ricky Barnes
Chapter 1:      Introduction: Indians and Indian Law
A. The Study of Indian Law
            1. What is Federal Indian Law?
                        a. Three Central Sets of Concerns:
                                    1. Tribal sovereignty and Indian property rights
                                                a. Process of obtaining Indian lands and containing the
                                                            tribes was largely done by recognizing them as
                                                            sovereigns, then negotiating agreements with their                                                                representatives. 
                                                b. Sovereignty of tribes continues today as an important
                                                            principle for understanding Indian legal relations. 
                                                c. Congress and US SC has affirmed that tribes retain
                                                            important powers of self-government within Indian
                                                d. Relationship of Indians and Federal Government is
                                                            described as “Dependent”, with tribes relying on the
                                                            US for protection. 
                                                e. Result of legal relationship of tribes with US is that
                                                            Indian people continue to be ruled by own laws on
                                                            the reservation.
                                                f. Tribal governments exercise legislative, judicial and                                                                     regulatory powers and it is clear that their basic                                                                     authority is derived from aboriginal sovereignty,                                                              though additional powers can be delegated, or                                                               recognized and affirmed by Congress. 
                                                g. If sovereign tribal rights are not voluntarily ceded by the                                                             tribe in treaties or in other negotiations approved by                                                             Congress, they continue in existence. 
                                                h. Rights not specifically ceded in a treaty or agreement, or                                                             not regarded under principles of federal Indian law                                                              as inconsistent with the tribes’ status as dependent                                                                   on the US, are considered to be reserved. And                                                               when cessions are made or rights are extinguished                                                                they are to be construed narrowly as affecting only                                                               matters specifically mentioned. 
i. Doctrine of Reserved Rights: treaty/legislation silent on
rights should be read as implying continued existence of rights. Unless expressly stated, rights are not lost or taken away. 
                                    2. Federal power and obligations
                                                a. treaties, agreements, and special legislation for Indians
                                                            have created a unique legal relationship between
                                                            tribes and US
                                                b. One function of federal role in Indian affairs is to
                                                            preempt the exercise of state power over much of                                                                 the area. 
                                                c. Another function is to carry out special obligations                                                                      toward the tribes and their members. 
                                                d. Exercise of federal legislative power over Indian matters                                                            flows primarily from authority delegated to                                                                           Congress by the Indian Commerce Clause of the US                                                    Constitution, which confers power “to regulate                                                                       Commerce within the Indian Tribes.” 
                                                            i. Trade and Intercourse Act, 1790: formalized the
                                                                        role of the federal government as a
                                                                        necessary participant in Indian land                                                                                       transactions. 
                                                e. Federal Government special programs for the Indians                                                                  relate to protecting and developing Indian lands,                                                                  assisting tribal governments, and addressing special                                                                educational and health needs. 
                                                f. Congress can abrogate treaty promises, alter tribal                                                                        powers of self-government, and extinguish not only                                                                         title to land, but even the special relationship of a                                                                         tribe to the federal government. 
                                                            i. SC will review such actions to assure that they                                                                              are rationally tied to the fulfillment of                                                                                   Congress’ unique obligation toward Indians. 
                                                g. Federal Government has unique relationship of Trust to                                                               the Tribes
                                                            i. conduct dealings by the highest fiduciary                                                                                      standards
                                                            ii. official should not act to the Indians’ detriment
                                    3. Jurisdiction over the reservation 
                                                a. Exercise of the federal government’s legislative power                                                                excludes most state jurisdiction within the                                                                             boundaries of reservations. 
                                                b. The very establishment of a reservation for the                                                                              “exclusive use and occupancy” of a tribe is an act                                                                 that preempts state authority. 
                                                c. most state laws like zoning, environmental degradation,                                                              domestic relations, and child welfare do not extend                                                              to Indians in Indian country, and they cannot be                                                                        taxed by states or counties. 
                                                d. The existence of reservations as jurisdictional islands                                                                   within state boundaries is supported by the exercise
                                                            of federal authority. 
                                                e. Three separate sovereigns in Indian Country: tribal,                                                                     federal, and state
B. American Indians Today: An Overview
            1. Indian Tribes and Reservations
                        a. American Indians think of themselves are members of a particular tribe                          

   a. Roman Catholic Church was the dominant political and legal institution
                        b. Pope in Rome was vested supreme spiritual jurisdiction over the souls                                        of all humankind
                                    i. Pope Innocent IV justified the extension of papal sovereignty                                                     over infidels on the basis of their divergence from Christian                                                 European norms of “natural law”
                                    ii. His argument of natural law rights and obligations of infidels                                                     represented an important step in development of                                                                   international law, and was often quoted in 16th century                                                             debate over rights of American Indians in face of Spanish                                                           conquest
            2. The Crusading Legal Tradition and Europe’s “Age of Discovery”
                        a. same legal justifications for the holy wars against “heathen and infidel”
                                    peoples were applied to the “discovery” of new territories by                                               Christian Europeans.
            3. Spanish Colonial Law and the Rights of American Indians
                        a. “Black Legend”: term used to describe Spain’s rapid colonization and                                       resulting destruction of the indigenous cultures and peoples                                                 encountered by the Spanish
                        b. The Requerimiento (Requirement): charter of conquest, read aloud to                                        Indians, telling them that God had given charge of “the whole                                            human race” to the Pope in Rome
            4. Spanish Legal Theory and Indian Rights
                        a. Indians should be placed under a civilized nation’s guardianship. 
                                    i. the civilized nation would then hold just title over the property                                                    of the Indians and undertake the responsibility for                                                                administering their affairs.
                        b. Crown’s mandated guardianship responsibilities under the Law of                                             Nations would include the duty of bringing the message of the                                            civilized Christian faith to the natives.  
                        c. No legitimate law outside of the Christian Church. 
B. The English North American Colonial Era Influence on United States Federal Indian Law and Policy
            1. Early Precedents
                        a. King Henry VII of England issued charter of discovery.
                        b. With Reformation and fall of British Catholicism, King Henry VIII still                                    continued ideas of CONQUEST…but extended rights of conquest
                                    to companies.
1.      Doctrine of Conquest (1100-1300)
a.       Conversion (kill them and take their land):
1)      Indians are living in nature and not believing in God
2)      Pope has the power to punish those living in nature and can grant right to war
b.      Indians have no rights and can be killed
            2. Early English Colonial Practice Respecting Indian Rights