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U.S. Colonization of Indian Justice Systems: A Brief History

Chiago Lujan, Carol
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) WICAZO SA Review. Fall: 9-23.

As Carol Chiago Lujan and Gordon Adams observe, long before Europeans arrived in the Americas, Indian nations functioned under their respective principles and forms of sovereignty, including what now would be called systems of criminal justice. When Europeans came and encountered those nations, they sought to impose their sovereignty and systems and quash Indian sovereignty and systems. The effects on Indian nations have been harmful to devastating, but Indians have continued to try to maintain control of their lives and destinies. Against this background, Lujan and Adams examine United States colonialism (the term Native scholars use to describe the U.S. governmentxe2x80x99s relationship to Indian nations) and its effects on Indian nations, particularly with respect to their justice systems. Lujan and Adams look at the process whereby U.S. laws and statutes eroded the sovereignty of tribal justice systems; some early cases and more recent laws and legislation; the impact of early federal policies and legislation on Indian nations; and the growing trend for tribal governments to return to a more culturally appropriate justice system.


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