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Comparative Indigenous Law


Indian treaties create the framework for government-tribal relations for particular tribes, and create the obligations of the Federal government to those tribes. Treaty making took place between 1722 (with the Five Nations - Treaty No 1) and 1868 (with the Nez Perce Indians - Treaty No 374). After 1869 no further treaties were negotiated by the US Government and in 1871 a bill was passed by Congress ending treaty making with the Indians and substituting the practice of making ratified agreements (16 Stat L 566).

The five subjects that were typically set out in Indian treaties are:

  1. the international status of the tribe (including boundaries),
  2. dependence of tribes on the United States,
  3. commercial relations (including cessions of land, reserved rights in ceded land, and payments and services to tribes),
  4. jurisdiction, and
  5. control of tribal affairs.

Finding Treaties

Treaties from 1778 to 1845 appear in volume 7 of the U S Statutes at Large. Later treaties are spread throughout volumes 9-16. These early Statutes at Large are available on open access on the American Memory project (Library of Congress)

Treaties are also contained in Charles J Kappler, Indian Affairs: Law and Treaties ('Kappler'). Kappler consists of 7 volumes: volume II was published in 1904 and contains US Government treaties with Native Americans from 1778-1883. Volumes I, III-VII contain US laws and executive orders concerning Native Americans from 1871-1970. All 7 volumes of Kappler are available on open access on the Oklahoma State University website.

Books on Treaties ​

First Nations Authors