- American Indian Treaties: A Guide to Ratified and Unratified Colonial, United States, State, Foreign, and International Treaties and Agreements, 1607–1911 by David H. DeJong
David DeJong’s collection of Indian treaties fills an important gap in legal research and scholarship on the formal, and sometimes tortured, relationship between Indian tribes and other governments. DeJong begins with an overview of Indian treaties that is accessible to any reader. Uniquely in this area, the text pays particular attention to important differences between treaties made with American tribes before independence and afterward, treaties made with individual states compared to foreign nations, and, refreshingly, even treaties made between multiple Indian tribes. While this discussion breaks no new ground, the text provides the necessary thorough background for any reader to understand the importance of Indian treaties, the context in which they were made, and the various ways in which treaties were broken and enforced as the nation’s perception of American Indians has evolved.
By far the text’s greatest contribution to future scholarly work on American Indians is its exhaustive cataloging of Indian treaties. More than half the text is dedicated to a compendium of citations to source material—enabling the reader to at once understand the scale of Indian treaty making but also to locate material of importance by treaty type or by date. Nowhere has such a complete compendium of Indian treaties been compiled, and there is particular value to the collection of treaties between tribes and those made with states, foreign states, and other tribes—areas of Indian treaty making that are often overlooked in other literature. Chronological presentation and organization by type makes it easy for even a novice user to differentiate between the parties and the enforceability of the agreements. In short, the text’s compendium of treaty material makes it an invaluable desk-book for those interested in Indian treaties and is of sufficient value standing alone to recommend the text.
Despite the fact that many of the treaties identified in the text may currently lie dormant, DeJong’s concluding remarks give his work perpetual relevance: “Unless tribal nations have expressly given up their resources, [End Page 331] they retain them to the fullest whether presently utilized or not” (68). The text clearly leaves the reader with an understanding that Indian treaties are not historical anomalies but instead vital and vibrant tools that reflected, at times, a compromise between the United States and the various tribes where each side met with equal bargaining power. While recognizing that other treaties were essentially forced upon Indian nations to secure tribal land and resource concessions, DeJong ultimately leaves the reader with the understanding that Indian treaties—protected by the Constitution and legally enforceable in federal courts—are a modern tool for tribes to draw upon to continue to emphasize and secure their sovereignty, their resources, and their history.