Indians 78, Washington State 0: Stories about Indians and the Law


  • Steven E. Aufrecht,

    1. Professor of public administration at the University of Alaska Anchorage. His current research interests include cross-cultural understanding for public administrators. He recently spent a sabbatical as a visiting professor at both Portland State University and Renmin (People's) University of China in Beijing. E-mail:
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  • David S. Case

    1. Attorney with more than 25 years of experience representing Alaska Native interests. He is the author of Alaska Natives and American Laws (University of Alaska Press, 2002), which analyzes the historical application of U.S. federal law to Alaska Natives. He received the 1998 Denali Award from the Alaska Federation of Natives for dedication and service to the Alaska Native community. E-mail:
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In the 1970s Washington State lost a series of legal cases related to Native Americans. These cases exemplify the need for knowledge of federal Indian law-but such knowledge, out of context, is insufficient. Key aspects of federal Indian law are hard to accept because of conflicting stories that Americans already believe. The authors discuss the importance of stories and review commonly believed stories that block acceptance of federal Indian law. They then discuss basic principles of Indian law and distill four questions to help determine tribal jurisdiction. The authors review the Marshal trilogy—three Supreme Court cases that set the foundations of modern Native American law—and show how the legal principles play out in an analysis of three contemporary court cases.