The Legacy of Bryan v. Itasca County: How a $147 County Tax Notice Helped Bring Tribes $200 Billion in Indian Gaming Revenue
52 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2007 Last revised: 20 Oct 2017
The Supreme Court's landmark 1976 decision in Bryan v. Itasca County is known within Indian law academia for the story that Professors Phil Frickey and Bill Eskridge tell about the case: it reflects a dynamic and pragmatic interpretation of a termination-era statute to limit Congressional termination's harmful legacy during a more enlightened era of tribal self-determination. What is less well-appreciated about the case is that it provided the legal bedrock on which the Indian gaming industry was built. This article explores the genesis of the litigation and traces its path, describing how it came to produce a unanimous Supreme Court opinion of surprising breadth. It also demonstrates that the right to engage in gaming, which ultimately has produced vast tribal economic development and even riches for some tribes, had its roots as much in Indian poverty as in Indian sovereignty.
Keywords: Indian gaming, Cabazon Band, Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, Indian law, Public Law 280
JEL Classification: K10, K34, K41, L83
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