Rebooting Indian Law in the Supreme Court

18 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2010 Last revised: 26 Jan 2016

See all articles by Matthew L. M. Fletcher

Matthew L. M. Fletcher

Michigan State University - College of Law

Date Written: April 14, 2010


This talk, delivered as the 2010 Dillon Lecture at the University of South Dakota School of Law, argues Indian nations and advocates – and the federal judiciary – view Indian law through a reactionary lens, deciding major issues as the cases arise. There are a few mini-movements, long-term strategies on a particular issue, such as the Cobell litigation, the fishing rights cases of the 1960s and 1970s, and perhaps a few others. But even those series of cases could hardly be called a strategic “movement.” As a result of a lack of a viable long-term strategy, I posit that tribal interests are and will continue to be punching bags in Supreme Court litigation.

I offer suggestions on how to reboot federal Indian law in the federal judiciary and the Supreme Court. I will discuss cases or lines of cases that demonstrate how Indian nations can persevere in the Supreme Court, and suggest potential long-term strategies for tribal interests to pursue.

Keywords: Supreme Court, Federal Indian Law, Indian Treaty Rights, Cobell, Employment Division v. Smith, Brown v. Board of Education

Suggested Citation

Fletcher, Matthew L. M., Rebooting Indian Law in the Supreme Court (April 14, 2010). 55 South Dakota Law Review 510 (2010), MSU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-08, Available at SSRN:

Matthew L. M. Fletcher (Contact Author)

Michigan State University - College of Law ( email )

648 N. Shaw
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300
United States

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