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American Indian Studies

A resource guide for American Indian Studies research.

Iroquois Law of Peace and the US Constitution

The United States we know today and the world is indebted to the First Peoples for seed selecting for future farming, stewardship of land, traditional knowledge, and so much more. In fact, the democracy we enjoy in the United States was influenced by the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Law of Peace and greatly influenced the US Constitution. 

A Few Well-known Decisions & Acts

Boldt Decision

Summary of the case - 

The 1974 Boldt Decision affirmed the right for tribes to fish in their usual and accustomed places, and specifically in off-reservation locations. State intervention on fishing rights was limited to very special cases or conservation reasons. Pursuing this decision and case was spurred by the Puyallup River fishing protest in the 1960s. [1]

Centennial Accord

Summary -

Established in 1989, the Centennial Accord affirms a government relationship between the federally recognized tribes of Washington state and the State of Washington. The affirmation of this relationship aspires to improve services to Indian and non-Indian people alike. [2]

Dawes Act

Summary -

The Dawes Act, or General Allotment Act of 1887 divided reservation land among individuals of the a Tribe, instead of allowing the reservation to manage it as collectively run reservation property. "The remaining land would be opened to white settlement. This resulted in the loss of millions of acres of Indian land." [2] This allocation and subdivision of reservation land resulted in major loss of land to Native Americans as "Reservation land not allotted to individual Indians [was] declared surplus and offered for sale." [3]

Indian Citizenship Act

Summary -

American Indians gained citizenship and the right to vote after the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act.[2]

Indian Reorganization Act

Summary -

The Indian Reorganization Act (Wheeler-Howard Act) was passed in 1934 and established governmental structures used by tribes today. "Tribal courts, funds for higher education, tribal council systems and others evolved out of the IRA. It is said to be the most far reaching piece of Indian legislation to impact Native people in contemporary times, and served as the beginnings of Indian self-determination." [2]

Tribal Sovereignty

Sovereignty is defined both as "respect of power, domination, or rank; supreme dominion, authority, or rule" as well as "existing as an independent state."[4]  Tribal sovereignty "guarantees a nation the right to govern its own affairs and establish its own laws."[2] The U.S. Constitution recognizes the self-government of tribal nations and their right to do so. 


References -

  1. The original case on the Boldt decision can be found in NexisUni at United States v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D. Wash. 1974)
  2. Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. (2017, March). Since Time Immemorial Bingo - Answer sheet. Since Time Immemorial Curriculum.
  3. Native Voice. (n.d.). 1887: U.S. subdivides reservation land; sells off surplus. Retrieved from
  4. Sovereignty. (2017). In OED Online. Retrieved from 

Resources -

  • Native Voices. (n.d.). 1934: President Franklin Roosevelt signs the Indian Reorganization Act. Retrieved from

Legal Documents