Academic Commons

Theses Doctoral

'The Sovereignty that Seemed Lost Forever': The War on Poverty, Lawyers, and the Tribal Sovereignty Movement, 1964-1974

Roy, Aurelie Audrey

Relying on interviews of Indian rights lawyers as well as archival research, this collective history excavates a missing page in the history of the modern tribal sovereignty movement. At a time when vocal Native American political protests were raging from Washington State, to Alcatraz Island, to Washington, D.C., a small group of newly graduated lawyers started quietly resurrecting Indian rights through the law. Between 1964 and 1974, these non-Indian and Native American lawyers litigated on behalf of Indians, established legal assistance programs as part of the War on Poverty efforts to provide American citizens with equal access to a better life, and founded institutions to support the protection of tribal rights. In the process, they would also inadvertently create both a profession and an academic field—Indian law as we know it today—which has since attracted an increasing number of lawyers, including Native Americans. This story is an attempt at reconstituting a major dimension of the rise of tribal sovereignty in the postwar era, one that has until now remained in the shadows of history: how Indian rights, considered obsolete until the 1960s, gained legitimacy by seizing a series of opportunities made available in part through ‘accidents’ of history. The work done by this new generation of Indian rights lawyers between the mid-1960s and the mid-1970s recast definitions of tribal sovereignty in Indian Country as well as the practice and teaching of Indian law. At its core, this project seeks to realize three aspirations: First, to explain where Native American rights come from and how they interact, engage, and fit in with American law; second, to dissect the uses and limitations of law as an avenue for the pursuit of social justice; and third, to probe the question of whether the United States can function as a plural state capable of hosting multiple visions of politics, law, and culture.

Files

This item is currently under embargo. It will be available starting 2019-10-13.

More Information

Academic Units
History
Thesis Advisors
Jacoby, Karl
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Academic Commons provides global access to research and scholarship produced at Columbia University, Barnard College, Teachers College, Union Theological Seminary and Jewish Theological Seminary. Academic Commons is managed by the Columbia University Libraries.