VIRGINIA L. CLOSE
MANY OF THE TOPICS that are researched for papers on Native Americans involve finding out about some aspect of law or locating the texts of court decisions. The courts are often the major federal courts but lower federal courts, state courts, and courts of other jurisdictions might be involved as well.
In 1976 an article appeared in this journal that discussed various resources for the study of Native American topics.1 It included reference to several publications dealing with law. One specific resource mentioned might be included in this present article. This is the micro fiche collection of the Decisions of the Indian Claims Commission.2
The commission was created on 13 August 1946; its work involved hearing and determining claims brought against the United States and arising before 13 August 1946 One does not find, in the printed indexes to the microfiche, references to tribes, states, and cases involving New England groups such as the Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, and Mashpee. These came up a number of years after 13 August 1946 To quote from the earlier article in this journal:the Decisions review 'the historical background and relevant previous decisions on a case or on related cases before giving the decision and the reasoning supporting it.' 3 Parenthetically, to be pointed out is that the related microfiche collection, Expert Testimony before the Indian Claims Commission, 4 includes studies that provide a great deal of additional background information submitted by the government and the Indian plaintiffs. These studies are primarily of economic, ethnological, geologic, and anthropological nature and bear on the case at hand. So, for example, one finds among the testimonies an 118-page study, 'Historical Land Valuation of the Rig Tree Cession in New York, 1797-1842; a 397-page study of 'Soils and Related Physical Features of Sac and Fox Cessions in Iowa, Royce Area 262 1839 and 1843'; and an 111-page 'Ethnohistory of the Joseph Band of Net Perce Indians, 1805-1905.'
The currently-published Indian Law Reporter has been issued since 1974; a loose-leaf service that is updated every month, it is primarily a record of court cases concerning or relevant to Indian law. 5 Its eight sections are as follows:United States Supreme Court, decisions and proceedings; United States Courts of Appeals, United States District Courts, and United States Court of Claims; state courts; tribal courts for both trial and appellate levels; miscellaneous proceedings, including United States Tax Court, United States Bankruptcy Court, and decisions of the Interior Board of Indian Appeals [IBIA], the Interior Board of Land Appeals [IBLA], and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission [Energy Commission]. Information in the reporter says that 'Each case reported is preceded by a detailed summary. Depending on their content, opinions are reproduced in full, abridged, or excerpted, as indicated by the heading following the summary. Synopses of deleted portions appear in parenthesized italics. Where available, attorneys of record and official citations are reported' 6
The Library receives many of the decisions reported in the Indian Law Reporter in other publications as well. The decisions of the Supreme Court are available in at least two other ongoing publications, the United States Reports, published by the Government Printing Office, and the United States Supreme Court Reports Lawyers' Edition, published by the Lawyers' Cooperative Publishing Company. Currently, the Federal Reporter includes the decisions of the United States Courts of Appeals while the Federal Supplement has the decisions of the district courts. The United States Court of Claims has its Cases Decided in the Court of Claims. In the past there have been changes in what set contained what court reports so that a reader would have to check to be certain, over time, in what set a particular court's decisions would be located.
For state courts the situation is different. The Library does not subscribe to the entire National Reporter system but has the North Eastern and Atlantic Reporters covering courts of last resort in fourteen states plus the District of Columbia. Also available is the New York Supplement. Additionally, the Library's set of the American Law Reports Annotated includes the more notable and important cases selected from the decisions of all states. Tribal courts would probably not be documented elsewhere than in the Indian Law Reporter, while decisions reported in the Miscellaneous Proceedings sections of that publication would not be consistently available in other publications. The Indian Law Reporter brings together conveniently and in a timely fashion legal material that, while some of it is available in other sources, would require a considerable amount of work to identify and bring together
The National Indian Law Library publishes a Catalogue: An Index to Indian Legal Materials and Resources7. The current revised edition is for 1982; the basic material is being updated by supplements. There are several sections in the Catalogue:a subject listing and a subject index (the former indicating the categories under which the subject index lists material), a numeric listing (which contains the most information about a publication), a table-of-cases section, and an author-title table.
These two publications, the Indian Law Reporter and the will help identify and locate many cases that have arisen since the Indian Claims Commission cut-off point of 1946. Included in this category are cases arising from the land claims of the various New England tribes-in Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maine, for example 8
1.T[heresa] B[lake],Journey's End, Dartmouth College Library Bulletin n.s. 16 1976):91-94.
2. Decisions of the Indian Claims Commission Findings, Opinions, Orders, and Final Awards of the United Slates Indian Claims Commission, 1948 et seq. 344 sheets. (New York:Clearwater Pub- Co., 1973).
3. T[heresa] B[lake],Journey's End, p. 92.
4. 1270 sheets. (New York:Clearwater Pub. Co., ).
5. ([Washington] :American Indian Lawyer Training Program, 1974-).
6. From preliminary page giving instructions and information for maintaining the set.
7. Rev. ed. (Boulder, Colo.:Native American Rights Fund, 1982-).
8.Paul Brodeur's Restitution:The Land Claims of the Mashpee, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot Indians of New England (Boston:Northeastern University Press. 1985) will help if one is studying those particular tribes. Unfortunately for the researcher there is neither an index nor any bibliographic apparatus with the book. But it is not long and can be easily scanned.
Last Updated: 4/19/17