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Winter 2011 Class Descriptions

As of 5/23/2018 5:32:43 AM

Federal Indian Law

Professor Berger, Fall 2011:

This course explores the legal relationships between American Indian tribes and the United States and the various states. Major topics in the course include the history of federal Indian law and policy, congressional power with respect to Indian peoples and nations, principles of interpretation of laws and treaties regarding Indians, the nature of tribal sovereignty, and tribal, federal, and state jurisdiction in Indian country. In examining these topics, we will also discuss tribal recognition, gambling, taxation, and natural resources in Indian country, and the Indian Child Welfare Act.


Federal Indian Law surveys the specialized body of federal law allocating power and authority in Indian country that has grown up around native American peoples and their reservations. Subjects covered in the course include sovereignty arrangements, tribal, federal and state jurisdiction in Indian country, federal Indian policy, and tribal self-government. While the courses focuses primarily on federal law protecting tribal sovereignty in Indian country, other topics covered may include the body of federal law that supports tribal gaming and the jurisprudence surrounding Indian real property and other resource claims, native cultural artifacts, and hunting, fishing and other food gathering rights.American Indian law challenges America's perceptions of itself. Americans tend to assume that they are governed by three levels of government -- federal, state, and local -- and that each is constituted on a colorblind basis. American Indian is the unique exception to that model. Indians tribes, which are defined by ethnicity, are a fourth branch of government, a branch that is in some respects superior to the federal government and often equal in authority to the states. Recognized Indian tribes, of which there are over 500, possess general governmental powers over Indian tribal members, non-member Indians, and non-Indians alike within their territories, powers that can include the power to tax, and to regulate and condemn property, to define and punish misconduct, and to examine Indian tribal government as the most pronounced example in American law of constitutionally-authorized, ethnic separatism in the form of ethnic self-government.

3.00 hours