Friday, May 02, 2014

American Tribal Law and Culture

The foundational treatise in the field of American tribal law is Felix S. Cohen's Handbook of Federal Indian Law.First published in 1941, [this book] synthesized more than a century and a half of American Indian law. This treatise …played an important role in both the history of federal Indian law and in the evolution of American jurisprudence. ..Felix Cohen’s Handbook brought focus and coherence to [a] confusing welter of sources and, in effect created the field of federal Indian law…

After Cohen’s death in 1953, the treatise was revised by the Department of the Interior in 1958 for openly political purposes: to advance the efforts to terminate the federal government’s relationship with Indian tribes. The 1958 edition stressed the plenary power of the federal government over Indians and Indian tribes and deemphasized tribal sovereignty.

In the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968, Congress mandated the updating of several important works in federal Indian law, including the Handbook of Federal Indian Law.”* Today, Bethany Berger, Thomas F. Gallivan, Jr. Professor of Real Property Law at UConn School of Law, is co-author and member of the editorial board of Felix S. Cohen's Handbook of Federal Indian Law. The later editions focus on the relationships between tribes, the states and the federal government within the context of civil and criminal jurisdiction, as well as areas of resource management and government structure.

There are 566 federal recognized tribes, “domestic, dependent nations” within the United States, each with powers of self-government that operate within the tribes’ sovereign territories. Tribal Constitutions, some quite contemporary, are available as the electronic appendix to the new book, Structuring Sovereignty: Constitutions of Native Nations.

Faye Hadley, Native American Materials Librarian, University of Tulsa Law Library
Mabee Legal Information Center, has put together the “Native American Legal Research Guide” and a compendium of “Native American Legal Websites”.

For more information, see “Massachusetts Law About American Indians”:

Thank you to the staff at the Thomas J. Meskill Law Library at UConn School of Law for hosting  the LLNE/SNELLA Spring 2014 Meeting :, giving law librarians throughout New England the opportunity to learn more about American Tribal Law and Culture.

*from the Foreward to Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law, 2005 edition, LexisNexis.