Learning more about American Indian law

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Sep 18, 2009 Learning more about American Indian law

Numerous law schools have American Indian law classes. Mine did not. I have wanted to learn more, including the law concerning treaty rights, land rights, gambling, and sacred medicine, and also about the past and current mistreatment and slaughter of Native Americans and efforts and accomplishments to reverse such mistreatment.

I took a particularly greater interest in Native American issues from reading Dennis Banks’s Ojibwa Warrior (written with Richard Erdoes), and then meeting him in 2006 at the conclusion of the Sacred Run, and again in 2008 near the end of the Longest Walk II. We are both friends of Jun Yasuda, who joined Dennis from California when he went “underground to the Onondaga Reservation in New York” after California’s Jerry Brown — who refused to extradite Dennis to South Dakota concerning criminal charges over the Wounded Knee event — left the governor’s office.

In Ojibwa Warrior, Dennis Banks details his life from childhood, to being ripped by the government from his family and forced into a faraway United States government school meant to take the Indian culture out of Native Americans, and to his ironic joining of the military defending the same government that had forced him to that boarding school.

With the foregoing background, yesterday, September 17, I attended a meeting at the National Museum of the American Indian, where a roomful of lawyers shared ideas for creating an effective upcoming exhibit on the many treaties between the United States government and tribes. Many of the lawyers present Kevin Grover issued an apology in 2000 for the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ role in the civil rights violations, when he was an Assistant Secretary at the Interior Department. Here is a viewpoint on Mr. Gover by Steve Russell, who has written extensively on American Indian law.

ADDENDUM: At my request, one of the attendees recommended two texts for learning more about American Indian law. One is American Indians, Time and the Law, by Charles Wilkinson. He also recommended a book by a writer named Washburn; I am not sure if he was referring to Red Man’s Land; White Man’s Law, by Wilcomb E. Washburn.

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