The Legacy of Allotment
78 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2008
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the federal government pursued an Indian policy of allotting tribal lands and assimilating Indians. Although Congress formally ended the practice of allotment in 1934, and repudiated the assimilation policy, the legacy of allotment lingers on in the Indian law opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court. In a series of cases that are contrary to the canons of construction, the Court's own precedents, and modern federal Indian policy, the Court diminished tribal territories and restricted tribal sovereignty over the territory that remains. This article describes the allotment policy and its repudiation by Congress, and then explores the Court's revival of allotment's legacy - first in the Court's most recent interpretation of the General Allotment Act itself, next in the cases where the Court invoked the legacy of allotment to deprive tribes of their lands, and finally in the cases where the Court left the territorial boundaries intact, but used the legacy of allotment to dispossess the tribes of full sovereign authority over those territories.
Keywords: Indian law, federal Indian policy, allotment
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