Stephen L. Pevar,
The Rights of Indians & Tribes:
The Authoritative ACLU Guide to Indian & Tribal Rights

(Bantam, 1983; Southern Illinois Press, 2002; NYU Press, 2004)

According to Inez Hernandez-Azila in Native American Spirituality, "(Native Americans) are the most legislated of any peoples in the United States." Her statement is well proven by this 421-page text on the legislation pertaining to the rights of Native Americans. The Rights of Indians & Tribes is a powerhouse of information for all persons having any connection with Native Americans or reservations.

This book utilizes a question-and-answer format that closely examines the laws and how they are applied. Yet this is far from just a dry legal book. It is actually an interesting book to read for pleasure that will help readers to understand both legal and non-legal issues that Native Americans face. It is crucial reading for anyone facing charges on Native American land.

An example of the questions answered in this book is: "Have federal officials done a good job in their administration of Indian affairs?" The answer includes a quote from the assistant secretary of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a quote from a federal court ruling and an explanation that Congress is tasked with the responsibility for overseeing the administration of Indian affairs. The author explains the problems Congress faces in doing its job, primarily the funding cutbacks that have all but disabled the BIA. It concludes with a quote from the assistant secretary that the federal government is "still 'far, far short' of meeting its obligation to Indian people."

If you are charged with a crime on Native American land and are facing a tribal trial, must they provide you with an attorney if you cannot afford one? This book will give you the answer.

A major shock to me was learning the federal government has the power to regulate hunting and fishing on reservation land. But there are stipulations and concrete procedures to be followed. The answer to this question is lengthy and looks at various legislation, such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, and how it is interpreted for Indian lands.

There are many entries that do not refer to a specific law, but simply explain the topic, such as "racial stereotyping." This section does a fine job of explaining why the federal government should change "Columbus Day" to "America Day." It cites the numbers of natives he killed or enslaved in Hispaniola -- nearly one-third of 300,000 within three years of his arrival.

The heavy use of footnotes makes it easy to locate further reading on the subjects discussed. There are six appendices, four of which list specific laws. Appendix E provides the legal definition of "Indian Country." Appendix F lists the Indian tribes alphabetically by state and distinguishes between the federally recognized and the state recognized.

The Rights of Indians & Tribes is brain food for the intellectually curious soul. It is a mixture of writings on history, culture, law, race relations and political science. While it will not appeal to everyone, it is an interesting book that is informative and fun to read. It made me better understand how the government works in non-native affairs and general lawmaking.

review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

14 June 2008

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