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American Indian Constitutional Reform and the Rebuilding of Native Nations

Edited by Eric D. Lemont

Publication Year: 2006

Since 1975, when the U.S. government adopted a policy of self-determination for American Indian nations, a large number of the 562 federally recognized nations have seized the opportunity to govern themselves and determine their own economic, political, and cultural futures. As a first and crucial step in this process, many nations are revising constitutions originally developed by the U.S. government to create governmental structures more attuned to native people's unique cultural and political values. These new constitutions and the governing institutions they create are fostering greater governmental stability and accountability, increasing citizen support of government, and providing a firmer foundation for economic and political development. This book brings together for the first time the writings of tribal reform leaders, academics, and legal practitioners to offer a comprehensive overview of American Indian nations' constitutional reform processes and the rebuilding of native nations. The book is organized in three sections. The first part investigates the historical, cultural, economic, and political motivations behind American Indian nations' recent reform efforts. The second part examines the most significant areas of reform, including criteria for tribal membership/citizenship and the reform of governmental institutions. The book concludes with a discussion of how American Indian nations are navigating the process of reform, including overcoming the politics of reform, maximizing citizen participation, and developing short-term and long-term programs of civic education.

Published by: University of Texas Press

American Indian Constitutional Reform and the Rebuilding of Native Nations

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pp. iii-vi


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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xvi

"The movement of American Indian nations and Alaska Native villages to revise and replace their constitutions has been of keen interest to those of us at the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development.1 Internationally, a large and growing body of academic research has demonstrated the crucial importance of governmental institutions for promoting economic growth and social well-being. The ..."

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pp. 1-8

"Hassen Ebrahim, the former Executive Director of South Africa’s Constitutional Assembly, writes that a constitution 'must be a reflection of a people’s history, fears, concerns, aspirations, vision, and indeed, the soul of that nation.'1 In many ways, this book is about the soul of American Indian nations. Tremendously important and exciting changes are taking place within the 562 federally recognized American Indian nations and Alaska Native ..."


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pp. 9-10

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One. REMAKING TRIBALCONSTITUTIONS: Meeting the Challenges of Tradition, Colonialism, and Globalization

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pp. 11-34

"Native communities in the United States, like all contemporary governments, are confronted with globalized markets, politics, and culture. Globalization is multidimensional and is more than the expansion of global markets, but also includes intensified exchanges of culture, information, international law, and human rights.1 If Native peoples are going to assert their nationalities and maintain their cultures they will ..."

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Two. SEASONS OF CHANGE: Of Reforms, Melees, and Revolutions in Indian Country

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pp. 35-48

"Indigenous nations, like all human collectivities, are fluid and dynamic polities in a perpetual, if futile, quest for long-term stability and security. Human nature—rational or irrational, noble or ignoble, innately conservative or essentially progressive—limited and finite natural resources, and changing demographics are three of the major factors that historically have served as effective deterrents of long-term stasis and ..."

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pp. 49-104

"There is a widespread view in Indian Country that the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 set back self-government for Native people in the United States. According to one aspect of this conception, the IRA, seen in overall terms, was another national statute pushing in the direction of forced assimilation. In other words, its intent was to require Native Americans to abandon their own governing institutions and ..."


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pp. 105-106

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Four. MEMBERS ONLY: Designing Citizenship Requirements for Indian Nations

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pp. 107-143

"Indian nations' constitutional reform efforts encounter some of their most paralyzing conflicts over criteria for membership.1 Three years ago, I initiated the Tribal Legal Development Clinic at UCLA, whose purpose has been to assist Indian nations in building their legal infrastructures. This Clinic has provided free consulting and drafting services to Indian nations seeking to establish or modify tribal constitutions, codes, ..."

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pp. 144-183

I see a lot of creative people on the reservation. They’re caught in a paradoxical situation. They adhere to the values of what the grandmothers and grandfathers talked about, to be in tune with themselves, to be in tune with their environment..."

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Six. Constitutional Rule and the Effective Governance of Native Nations

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pp. 184-234

"Constitutional reform is an exercise of sovereignty. With constitutional reform we’re talking about Indian nations doing what they have to do, or can do, in forming a structure that will bring them together...to address common problems. The question should be, as a truly sovereign nation, is this constitution, this form of government, acceptable to us? To our people? "


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pp. 235-236

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pp. 237-251

"Practically speaking, how can American Indian nations realize the goals discussed throughout this book? Who within tribal nations will be charged with balancing traditional methods of political decision-making with the demands of globalization? Or wrestling with often competing cultural, legal, and economic pressures over membership criteria?"

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pp. 252-286

"These are exciting times. American Indian nations across the country are taking steps to revise their constitutions and reform their governments. They are 'reinventing' their political systems to better fit their own cultures, traditions, and relationships, and to better cope with changing political and economic realities. The significance of these current reform efforts cannot be overestimated. To the extent there is widespread ..."

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Nine. OVERCOMING THE POLITICS OF REFORM: The Story of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma Constitution Convention

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pp. 287-332

"On a cold night in February 1999, seventy-nine citizens of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma (hereinafter the Nation) gathered in the auditorium of a local university for the first day of the Nation’s constitution convention. The gathering was historic not only because it was the Nation’s third constitution convention and first since 1839. More important, it was taking place during the tail end of a constitutional crisis ..."


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pp. 333-340


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pp. 341-344

E-ISBN-13: 9780292795846
E-ISBN-10: 029279584X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292712812
Print-ISBN-10: 0292712812

Page Count: 360
Publication Year: 2006