Cherokee Legal History Panel with J. Matthew Martin, Stacy Leeds, and Trey Adcock.
Tuesday, November 9th at 6:00pm ET
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About the Seminar:
The first legal history of the first tribal court upends long-held misconceptions about the origins of Westernized tribal jurisprudence. This book demonstrates how the Cherokee people—prior to their removal on the Trail of Tears—used their judicial system as an external exemplar of American legal values, while simultaneously deploying it as a bulwark for tribal culture and tradition in the face of massive societal pressure and change. Extensive case studies document the Cherokee Nation’s exercise of both criminal and civil jurisdiction over American citizens, the roles of women and language in the Supreme Court, and how the courts were used to regulate the slave trade among the Cherokees. Although long-known for its historical value, the legal significance of the Cherokee Supreme Court has not been explored until now.
About the Speakers:
J. Matthew Martin is the first American Bar Association (ABA) Tribal Courts Fellow. In 2013 he retired after over a decade of service as an Associate Judge of the Cherokee Court, the Tribal Court for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. For over 25 years, Judge Martin has been Board Certified as a Specialist in Federal and State Criminal Law by the North Carolina State Bar. In the 1991 Term, at age 31, he argued Wade v. United States before the Supreme Court of the United States. Judge Martin has spoken nationally and internationally on issues ranging from federal Indian law to criminal law and the judicial process. He is published in multiple peer-reviewed periodicals.
Judge Martin received a BA with Honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a JD from the UNC School of Law. He also holds a Ph.D. in Judicial Studies from the University of Nevada-Reno. He has taught law students as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the UNC and Elon Schools of Law. He is a long-time member of the faculty of the National Judicial College and former Secretary to the College’s Board of Trustees.
Judge Martin was honored as a T.C. Roberson High School “Graduate of Distinction” and received the “Franklin Flaschner Award” from the ABA’s National Conference of Specialized Court Judges as the nation’s outstanding specialized court judge in 2014. The Cherokee Supreme Court: 1823-1835 is his first book.
Trey Adcock (ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ, Citizen of Cherokee Nation), PhD, is an associate professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and the director of American Indian and Indigenous Studies at the University of North Carolina Asheville. He currently serves as the Executive Director of the Center for Native Health and sits on the Editorial Board for the Journal of Cherokee Studies.
Stacy Leeds is Foundation Professor of Law and Leadership at Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University. Leeds is Dean Emeritus, University of Arkansas School of Law (2011-2018) and the first Indigenous woman to lead a law school. Learn more at http://stacyleeds.com/biography
This article develops the history of the role of Indian children in the formation of the federal-tribal trust relationship and comes as constitutional challenges to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) are now pending. We conclude the historical record demonstrates the core of the federal-tribal trust relationship is the welfare of Indian children and their relationship to Indian nations. The challenges to ICWA are based on legally and historically false assumptions about federal and state powers in relation to Indian children and the federal government’s trust relationship with Indian children.
Indian children have been a focus of federal Indian affairs at least since the Framing of the Constitution. The Founding Generation initially used Indian children as military and diplomatic pawns, and later undertook a duty of protection to Indian nations and, especially, Indian children. Dozens of Indian treaties memorialize and implement the federal government’s duty to Indian children. Sadly, the United States then catastrophically distorted that duty of protection by deviating from its constitution-based obligations well into the 20th century. It was during this Coercive Period that federal Indian law and policy largely became unmoored from the constitution.
The modern duty of protection, now characterized as a federal general trust relationship, is manifested in federal statutes such as ICWA and various self-determination acts that return self-governance to tribes and acknowledge the United States’ duty of protection to Indian children. The federal duty of protection of internal tribal sovereignty, which has been strongly linked to the welfare of Indian children since the Founding, is now as closely realized as it ever has been throughout American history. In the Self-Determination Era, modern federal laws, including ICWA, constitute a return of federal Indian law and policy to constitutional fidelity.
On October 20, 1913, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in United States v. Sandoval, a case that addressed whether Congress could prohibit the introduction of intoxicating liquor into Santa Clara Pueblo lands notwithstanding the admission of New Mexico to statehood. The Court validated Congress’s power by virtue of the “Indian” status of the Pueblo people and their homelands, establishing an immensely important precedent asserting broad federal authority in Indian affairs generally. This symposium highlights three themes tied to Sandoval ’s legacy: Federal Authority in Indian Country, Indian Identity and Status, and the Rights of Defendants in Tribal Court. An additional related theme, Liquor in Indian Country, will be explored in the associated conference for tribal public defenders and Indian law clinicians, which will interweave with the symposium. This symposium is the third in a series of anniversary symposia commemorating landmark Indian law cases and legislation.
As the nation faces cultural divides over the meaning of the “Founding,” the Constitution, and who owns these meanings, the Court’s embrace of originalism is one strand that feeds the divide. The Court’s valuing of the original interpretation of the Constitution has reinforced the Founder fetishism also found in popular culture, specifically within the politics of those identified as the Tea Party. As addressed elsewhere, their strict worship of the Founders has historical implications for both women and African Americans, groups both marginalized and viewed as property in the Constitution. No one, however, has written about how the Court’s cobbled historical narrative and their veneration for the Founders have affected American Indian tribes. Tribes barely exist in the Constitution, and the Founders’ “original” understanding of tribes was that they would inevitably disappear.
The “vanishing Indian” stereotype, promulgated in the early Republic, and reaching an apex in the 1820’s, continues to influence fundamentally how the Court views tribes. Compressing history from the Founding through the Jacksonian era undermines tribal authority and sovereignty within the Court. In its federal Indian law cases, the Court relies on racial stereotypes and popular conceptions of American history. As a result of these shortcuts, the Court folds all tribes into one large group, empties the American landscape of tribal peoples, and forces tribes into a past where they only exist to disappear.
Current scholarship by legal commentators and political scientists recognizes that the weapons of American empire have involved non-militaristic activities as much as militaristic ones. Such non-militaristic activities include the hegemonic influence of trade agreements, the imposition of legal and procedural norms, and the dissemination of ideological and cultural predispositions through corporations and diverse medias. In this paper, we examine an under-explored area on the “soft” belly of the American leviathan, focusing specifically on how property and intellectual property law have operated on physical and ideological frontiers to comprehend, participate in, and legitimate the expansion of American empire. We offer new accounts of two historical instances of empire-building: the acquisition and seizure of property from Native Americans in the early- and mid-19th century, and the expropriation of intellectual property rights to plant genetic resources from indigenous communities in the global South in the late 20th century. These two stories, taken together, offer unique insights into both the process and the substance of law’s operation on the frontier of empire. They illuminate how the authority of law has fused with private power and legal legitimacy to enable the nation to expand swiftly, energetically, and powerfully. These insights, in turn, lead toward the more general conclusion that the rhetoric of property has functioned to subjugate peoples and places, cultures and natures, to an imperial regime.
Conventional histories of the Constitution largely omit Natives. This Article challenges this absence and argues that Indian affairs played a key role in the Constitution’s creation, drafting, and ratification. It traces two constitutional narratives about Indians: a “Madisonian” and a “Hamiltonian” perspective. Both views arose from the failure of Indian policy under the Articles of Confederation, where explicit national authority could not constrain states, squatters, and Native nations. Nationalists agreed that this failure underscored the need for a stronger federal state, but disagreed about the explanation. Madisonians blamed interference with federal treaties, while the Hamiltonians argued the federal military was too weak to overawe the “savages.”
Both accounts resulted in constitutional remedies. More important than the Indian Commerce Clause, provisions declared federal treaties supreme law, barred state treaty-making, and provided exclusive federal power over western territories. But expansionist states won concessions guaranteeing federal protection and western land claims, while other provisions created a fiscal-military state committed to western expansion.
The two narratives fared differently during ratification. Few embraced centralization, while the Federalists repeatedly invoked “savages” to justify a stronger federal state and a standing army. This argument swayed Georgia, which ratified to secure federal aid in its ongoing war with the Creeks. But it also elevated dispossession of Natives into a constitutional principle. The Article concludes by exploring this history’s interpretive implications. It suggests the Indian affairs context unsettles conventional understandings of the Constitution as intended to restrain state power, and challenges both originalist and progressive assumptions about constitutional history.
When the Supreme Court decides whether a tribe has jurisdiction over non-members on its reservation or addresses the related issue of reservation diminishment, it sometimes refers implicitly or explicitly to the non-Indians’ justifiable expectations, and Philip Frickey has argued that a concern with non-Indians’ justifiable expectations drives Court decisions about tribal jurisdiction even when the Court does not express that concern directly. The non-Indians’ assumed expectations arise from the fact that, when Congress opened up reservations to non-Indians during the allotment era, its assumption, and presumably that of non-Indians who purchased lands on reservations during that period, was that the reservations would disappear due to the federal government’s assimilationist policies, along with the tribes who governed them. To refute the idea that such non-Indian expectations were justifiable, I examine historical newspaper articles and other historical sources regarding the opening up of reservations to non-Indian purchasers, specifically focusing on articles relating to cessions by the Sioux Nation and especially the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Such sources suggest that non-Indian purchasers were on notice, in at least some cases, of a potential violation of tribal rights in the opening of portions of reservations to non-Indian settlement. Based on my argument that “justifiability” encompasses both reasonableness and a notion of justice, this information is used to show that the non-Indian purchasers’ presumed expectations about the disappearance of reservations were not justifiable because the purchasers had notice in many cases that lands were unjustly being taken from the Sioux Nation and other tribes. If, as I will argue, non-Indian expectations of tribal disappearance were unjustifiable, such expectations should not be given weight in determinations of tribal jurisdiction today.
The New Zealand Electronic Text Centre is proud to announce the launch of the Legal Maori Archive, a collection of more than 14,000 pages of around 250 19th century documents that illustrate the bi-lingual nature of New Zealand’s legal history. The Legal Maori Archive is freely available to the public and can be accessed via the NZETC website.
Among the many documents featured in this collection are the following:
The Archive has been created in conjunction with Mamari Stephens from the Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Law as part of a project to establish a corpus of legal Maori documents, which will allow the analysis of the language and eventually a dictionary of legal Maori terms and concepts. It is the first time the documents have been brought together in one place and is the largest collection of separate documents that the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre has digitised. The Legal Maori Project seeks to resource speakers of te reo Maori who may not currently have access to a shared vocabulary to describe Western legal concepts. This Project will collate, develop and make available the terminology from Legal Maori texts, including those from the Legal Maori Archive, to all speakers and learners of te reo Maori and all researchers
Kate Fort of MSU College of Law has posted “The New Laches” on SSRN. This is the first comprehensive and historical study of the application of laches doctrine to sovereigns, federal, state, and tribal. Here is the abstract:
Tribal land claims are facing a new challenge from an old area of law. Courts have been paying special attention to the law of equity and how it can defeat tribal land claims. Specifically, the equitable defenses of laches, acquiescence, and impossibility were used by the Supreme Court to hand defeat to the Oneida Indian Nation on a tax issue. Since then, lower courts in the Second Circuit have used this precedent to deny Indian land claims. But are these three defenses based on precedent themselves? Rarely. Instead, they have been combined to create a new defense, what I will call the “new laches.” This new defense, so far used successfully in Indian land cases in New York state and unsuccessfully elsewhere, has been so broadly construed by the Second Circuit that, if this view is adopted nationwide, it could apply to any treaty-based claim brought by Indians or Indian tribes.