Legal Limits: Four books, each with a weakness, explore tribal law and governmentAug 15th, 1994 | By ggagnon | Category: 6-2: Spirituality, Media Reviews
Review by Greg Gagnon, Oglala Lakota College
A major problem faced by teachers of tribal government is the absence of a textbook which meets the needs of beginning students.
I have faced this problem as I teach a course at Oglala Lakota College entitled: Tribal Law, Treaties and Government. Our college wants all of our students to learn the basic traditional, federal and tribal foundations of contemporary tribal government. Unfortunately, there are flaws in the existing materials for this course. My colleagues at other tribal colleges feel the same frustration.
The best sources of introductory level information about tribal government and the federal relationship are available from the Institute for the Development of Indian Law. Publications like Indian Treaties (1988) are written at an appropriate level for beginning students but one needs to assign four or five of their publications and they are fifteen years old. They do not provide enough information on tribal governments.
Charles Wilkinson has provided American Indians, Time and the Law (1987) but its sophistication poses background problems for beginning students. Faculty members and advanced students need works like Wilkinson’s and The American Indian Law Review; beginning students are overwhelmed by them. Felix Cohen’s Handbook of Indian Law is only a reference work.
Sharon O’Brien offers the best study of tribal governments at this point. American Indian Tribal Governments (1989) provides an overview of the trust relationship, treaty rights, truncated case studies of representative tribal governments and a good description of state-tribal government relationships. Now that O’Brien’s text is available in paperback, it is affordable. It’s only weakness is that the beginning students need to have knowledge if the United States governmental instiutions. O’Brien’s work is descriptive rather than analytical.