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Tribal Jurisprudence and Cultural Meanings of the Family

Atwood, Barbara Ann
June 4, 2015

Source: (2000) Nebraska Law Review. 79:577.

Barbara Ann Atwood begins this paper with the perspective that law is a dynamic agent of culture rather than a static structure independent of culture. Law both reflects and shapes culture. In this context, she observes that cultural renewal and resurgence are affecting court systems of American Indian tribes. Tribal judges are weaving strands from native culture, tribal law, Western culture, and Anglo-American law to form distinct tapestries of jurisprudence. Atwood explores the ways in which Indian tribal judges reflect and shape their culture through their jurisprudential “weavingsâ€? in the realm of family dispute resolution. She does this by describing the history and characteristics of tribal courts in the United States, and the vast differences among modern tribal courts, as well as values about dispute resolution held in common by many tribes. Then, analyzing a range of published family law opinions from the judiciaries of diverse tribes, she highlights the prominent child-rearing role of the extended family in the tradition of many Indian tribes as against the emphasis on parental autonomy in Anglo-American culture and jurisprudence.


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