American Indians, American Justice
By Vine Deloria, Jr., and Clifford M. Lytle University of Texas Press, 1983 Library of Congress KIE2812.D44 1983 | Dewey Decimal 347.73108997
Baffled by the stereotypes presented by Hollywood and much historical fiction, many other Americans find the contemporary American Indian an enigma. Compounding their confusion is the highly publicized struggle of the contemporary Indian for self-determination, lost land, cultural preservation, and fundamental human rights—a struggle dramatized both by public acts of protest and by precedent-setting legal actions. More and more, the battles of American Indians are fought—and won—in the political arena and the courts.
American Indians, American Justice explores the complexities of the present Indian situation, particularly with regard to legal and political rights. It is the first book to present an overview of federal Indian law in language readably accessible to the layperson. Remarkably comprehensive, it is destined to become a standard sourcebook for all concerned with the plight of the contemporary Indian.
Beginning with an examination of the historical relationship of Indians and the courts, the authors describe how tribal courts developed and operate today, and how they relate to federal and state governments. They define such key legal concepts as tribal sovereignty and Indian Country. By comparing and contrasting the workings of Indian and non-Indian legal institutions, the authors illustrate how Indian tribes have adapted their customs, values, and institutions to the demands of the modern world. Describing the activities of attorneys and Indian advocates in asserting and defending Indian rights, they identify the difficulties typically faced by Indians in the criminal and civil legal arenas and explore the public policy and legal rights of Indians as regards citizenship, voting rights, religious freedom, and basic governmental services.
Arguing with Tradition is the first book to explore language and interaction within a contemporary Native American legal system. Grounded in Justin Richland’s extensive field research on the Hopi Indian Nation of northeastern Arizona—on whose appellate court he now serves as Justice Pro Tempore—this innovative work explains how Hopi notions of tradition and culture shape and are shaped by the processes of Hopi jurisprudence.
Like many indigenous legal institutions across North America, the Hopi Tribal Court was created in the image of Anglo-American-style law. But Richland shows that in recent years, Hopi jurists and litigants have called for their courts to develop a jurisprudence that better reflects Hopi culture and traditions. Providing unprecedented insights into the Hopi and English courtroom interactions through which this conflict plays out, Richland argues that tensions between the language of Anglo-style law and Hopi tradition both drive Hopi jurisprudence and make it unique. Ultimately, Richland’s analyses of the language of Hopi law offer a fresh approach to the cultural politics that influence indigenous legal and governmental practices worldwide.
A sitting justice reflects upon the authority of the Supreme Court—how that authority was gained and how measures to restructure the Court could undermine both the Court and the constitutional system of checks and balances that depends on it.
A growing chorus of officials and commentators argues that the Supreme Court has become too political. On this view the confirmation process is just an exercise in partisan agenda-setting, and the jurists are no more than “politicians in robes”—their ostensibly neutral judicial philosophies mere camouflage for conservative or liberal convictions.
Stephen Breyer, drawing upon his experience as a Supreme Court justice, sounds a cautionary note. Mindful of the Court’s history, he suggests that the judiciary’s hard-won authority could be marred by reforms premised on the assumption of ideological bias. Having, as Hamilton observed, “no influence over either the sword or the purse,” the Court earned its authority by making decisions that have, over time, increased the public’s trust. If public trust is now in decline, one part of the solution is to promote better understandings of how the judiciary actually works: how judges adhere to their oaths and how they try to avoid considerations of politics and popularity.
Breyer warns that political intervention could itself further erode public trust. Without the public’s trust, the Court would no longer be able to act as a check on the other branches of government or as a guarantor of the rule of law, risking serious harm to our constitutional system.