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Native American Law & Legal Sources : Federal Case Law

An introduction to legal materials available at the UW Law Library on Native Americans and other native peoples of the US, such as Native Alaskans and Hawaiians. Includes treaties, statutes, executive orders, court decisions, and administrative actions.

Federal Court Cases

Indian Territory Cases

An Indian Territory was created in the 1830s when the "Five Civilized Tribes:" the Cherokee, Creeks (or Muscogees), Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole, were forcibly relocated to lands west of the Mississippi River. The Indian Territory included much of what is now the state of Oklahoma.  By Congressional action, a United States Court was established in the Indian Territory in 1889.

Indian Claims Commission

The Indian Claims Commission was created by Congress in 1946 to hear and decide all pre-1946 Indian claims against the United States.  There was no statute of limitations to bar a claim, as long as the cause of action occurred before August 13, 1946.  Personal claims of individual Indians were not accepted.  Relief granted by the Indian Claims Commission was limited to money damages.  Decisions could be appealed to the Court of Claims.  In 1978, the remaining cases, about 100, were transferred to the Court of Claims as Congress expanded the Court of Claims jurisdiction to include Indian claims arising after 1946.

Court of Claims & United States Claims Courts

The Court of Claims has received Indian claims through four avenues: cases of special jurisdiction, as provided by special acts of Congress prior to 1946; appeals from judgments of the Indian Claims Commission; cases transferred to it when the Indian Claims Commission was terminated in 1978; and claims arising after August 13, 1946.