Angela Riley: “Native American Lands and the Supreme Court”

Angela Riley has posted her very impressive paper, “Native American Lands and the Supreme Court,” published in the Journal of Supreme Court History, on SSRN.

Here is the abstract:

The Supreme Court has been instrumental in defining legal rights and obligations pertaining to Indian lands since its first path-making decision in the field in Johnson v. McIntosh in 1823. But the groundwork for the Court’s contemplation of such cases predates Supreme Court jurisprudence, and it in fact predates the formation of the Court and the United States itself.

When Europeans first made contact with this continent, they encountered hundreds of indigenous, sovereign nations representing enormous diversity in terms of language, culture, religion, and governance. For those indigenous groups — as is a common attribute of indignity of similarly situated indigenous groups around the world — this land was and is holy land. Indigenous creation stories root Indian people in this continent — Turtle Island to many — as the focal point of life, creation, religion, culture, and language. In the settlement of the country, the colonial powers initially — and the United States subsequently — treated with Indian nations to negotiate the transfer of lands from Indians to Europeans, often in exchange for peace or protection.

Prof. Riley had previously presented this paper to the Supreme Court historical society, which was televised on C-SPAN.

C-SPAN: Angela Riley on “Native American Lands in the Supreme Court” before the Supreme Court Historical Society

From the website:

Angela Riley spoke in the Supreme Court chamber about the history of the Supreme Court and Native American lands. The lecture, which took place in the Supreme Court chamber, was one in a series hosted by the Supreme Court Historical Society on the Constitution, the Supreme Court, and property rights. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg introduced Professor Riley.

Video here.

Mark Killenbeck on the History of the Commerce Clause

Mark Killenbeck, author of several excellent legal histories, including one on M’Culloch v. Maryland and another on the Tenth Amendment, has posted his short history of the Interstate Commerce Clause, “A Prudent Regard to Our Own Good? The Commerce Clause, in Nation and States.”

Here is the abstract:

This lecture was delivered on May 23, 2012, as part of the Supreme Court Historical Society’s annual Leon Silverman Lecture Series. My goal was to discern what key founders envisioned when they crafted and approved the Commerce Clause and explore how it has been interpreted and applied by the Court. I take as my starting point themes struck by James Madison in his Vices of the Political system of the U. States, in which he noted a “want of concert in matters where the common interest requires it,” a flaw “strongly illustrated in the state of our commercial affairs,” to the point that “the national dignity, interest, and revenue [have] suffered from this cause.” Madison’s lament was not, however, about the need to guard against an overbearing federal government. Rather, he was concerned about the corrosive effects of a “a mistaken confidence” in “the justice, the good faith, the honor, the sound policy, of . . . several legislative assemblies” whose actions were marked by “caprice, jealousy, and diversity of opinions.” Madison also counseled against excessive reliance on interpretations grounded solely in the drafting and ratification debates, speaking of the need to “liquidate and ascertain” meaning over time, recognizing, as did Chief Justice John Marshall, that the Constitution was “intended to endure for ages to come, and consequently, to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs.” A close and careful reading of both Madison and Marshall – in particular, Marshall’s opinion for the Court in Gibbons v. Ogden (1824) – suggests, accordingly, that sharp departures from the original understanding of the Commerce Clause occurred long before Wickard v. Filburn (1942), and that there is substantial support for an expansive reading of the nature and scope of the commerce power in the words and intentions of the founders.


Thelda Perdue to Lecture on Indian Lands and the SCT at the Supreme Court Historical Society


Details from the site:

November 14, 2012 | 6:00 PM
The History of Native American Lands
and the Supreme Court
Professor Theda Perdue
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill