Building New Traditions: Drawing Insights from Interactive Legal Culture

  • Jennifer Hendry
  • Melissa L. Tatum
Part of the Palgrave Socio-Legal Studies book series (PSLS)


Within the legal academy in the United States, there is general agreement that the US legal order does not deliver justice for Indigenous peoples. Criticisms in this regard are plentiful and varied, ranging from charges of colonialism, racism, patriarchy, and entrenched hegemony to an over-reliance on adversarial structures and processes (Getches 2001–02). It is notable, however, that while these discussions may reference tribal custom and tradition, they tend not to do so in the context of the existing body of literature regarding legal pluralism. Indeed, these discussions usually omit any recognition that the legal orders of the United States and its Native nations exist in circumstances of legal plurality, by which we mean the situation whereby competences and responsibilities are divided across federal, state, and tribal courts, with the ultimate goal of giving effect to local and culturally specific normative practices within what is still a fundamentally centralised legal system. Indeed, this situation is paradigmatic of John Griffiths’ definition of legal pluralism as ‘the messy compromise [that] the ideology of legal centralism feels itself obliged to make with recalcitrant social reality’ (Griffiths 1986, p. 7). It is further worth noticing that, while this ‘compromise’ situation is prima facie successful in its operation, not only are tribal jurisdiction and authority both tightly bounded (National Farmers Union Ins. Cos. v Crow Tribe 1985) but that by declaring that the existence and extent of tribal jurisdiction is a federal question, the US Supreme Court has anointed itself as the ultimate arbiter on any dispute arising from Indian Country (18 U.S.C. 1151).


  1. K. Anker (2017) ‘Law, Culture, and Fact in Indigenous Claims: Legal Pluralism as a Problem of Recognition’ in R. Provost (ed.) Culture in the Domains of Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 127–51.Google Scholar
  2. R. D. Austin (2009) Navajo Courts and Navajo Common Law (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press).Google Scholar
  3. K. A. Carpenter and A. R. Riley (2014) ‘Indigenous Peoples and the Jurisgenerative Moment in Human Rights’, California Law Review, 102, 173–234.Google Scholar
  4. R. M. Cover (1983) ‘The Supreme Court, 1982 Term – Foreword: Nomos and Narrative’, Faculty Scholarship Series, Paper 2705.Google Scholar
  5. R. Delgado and J. Stefancic (1993) ‘Critical Race Theory: An Annotated Bibliography’, Virginia Law Review, 79, 461–516.Google Scholar
  6. P. d’Errico (2009) ‘American Indian Sovereignty: Now You See It, Now You Don’t’, in A. de Oliveira (ed.) Decolonising Indigenous Rights (New York: Routledge), 105–121.Google Scholar
  7. A. Dussias, (1993) ‘Geographically-Based and Membership-Based Views of Indian Tribal Sovereignty: The Supreme Court’s Changing Vision’, University of Pittsburgh Law Review, 55, 1–97.Google Scholar
  8. N. B. Duthu (2013) Shadow Nations (Oxford: Oxford University Press).Google Scholar
  9. L. Emerson (2017) ‘Diné Sovereign Action: Rejecting Colonial Sovereignty and Invoking Diné Peacemaking’ in L. Lee (ed.), Navajo Sovereignty: Understandings and Visions of the Diné People, (Tucson: University of Arizona Press).Google Scholar
  10. G. Frankenberg (2016) Comparative Law as Critique (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar).Google Scholar
  11. P. Frickey (1999) ‘A Common Law for Our Age of Colonialism’, Yale Law Journal, 109, 1–85.Google Scholar
  12. L. L. Fuller (1969) The Morality of Law (New Haven and London: Yale University Press).Google Scholar
  13. D. Getches, C. Wilkinson, R.A. Williams, Jr., and M. Fletcher (2011) Federal Indian Law: Cases and Materials (6th ed.) (St Paul, MN: West Publishing).Google Scholar
  14. D. Getches (2001) ‘Beyond Indian Law: The Rehnquist Court’s Pursuit of States’ Rights, Color-Blind Justice and Mainstream Values’, Minnesota Law Review, 86(1), 267–362.Google Scholar
  15. S. Glanert and P. Legrand (2017) ‘Law, Comparatism, Epistemic Governance: There Is Critique and Critique’, German Law Journal, 18(3), 701–20.Google Scholar
  16. J. Griffiths (1986) ‘What is Legal Pluralism?’, Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law, 24(1), 1–55.Google Scholar
  17. J. Hendry (2017) ‘Existing in the Hyphen: On Relational Legal Culture’ in R. Provost (ed.) Culture in the Domains of Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).Google Scholar
  18. J. Hendry and M. L. Tatum (2016) ‘Human Rights, Indigenous Peoples, and the Pursuit of Justice’, Yale Law & Policy Review, 34(2), 351–86.Google Scholar
  19. M. L. Koehn (1997) ‘Civil Jurisdiction: The Boundaries Between Federal and Tribal Courts’, Arizona State Law Journal, 21, 705–68.Google Scholar
  20. T. Labin (2003) ‘We Stand United Before the Court: The Tribal Supreme Court Project’, New England Law Review, 37(3), 695–731.Google Scholar
  21. P. Legrand (2011) ‘Siting Foreign Law: How Derrida Can Help’, Duke Law Journal, 21, 595–629.Google Scholar
  22. P. Legrand (1996) ‘European Legal Systems are not Converging’, International & Comparative Law Quarterly, 45(1), 52–81.Google Scholar
  23. C. Menkel-Meadow (1996–97) ‘The Trouble with the Adversary System in a Postmodern, Multicultural World’, William & Mary Law Review, 38(5), 5–44.Google Scholar
  24. M. Minow (1995) ‘Rights and Cultural Difference’, in A. Sarat and T. Kearns (eds) Identities, Politics, and Rights (Michigan: University of Michigan Press), 347–65.Google Scholar
  25. Office of the Speaker (2002) Navajo Common Law Project.Google Scholar
  26. F. Pirie (2014) ‘Comparison in the Anthropology and History of Law’, Journal of Comparative Law, 9(2), 72–91.Google Scholar
  27. R. Porter (2004) ‘The Inapplicability of American Law to the Indian Nations’, Iowa Law Review, 89, 1455–595.Google Scholar
  28. J. Richland and S. Deer (2010) Introduction to Tribal Legal Studies, (2nd edn) (Plymouth: AltaMira).Google Scholar
  29. P. Sekaquaptewa (1999–2000) ‘Evolving the Hopi Common Law’, Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy, 9, 761–91.Google Scholar
  30. J. Shklar (1964) Legalism: Law, Morals, and Political Trials (Oxford: Harvard University Press).Google Scholar
  31. A. Skibine (2014) ‘Constitutionalism, Federal Common Law, and the Inherent Powers of Indian Tribes’, American Indian Law Review, 39, 77–136.Google Scholar
  32. R. Strickland (1991) ‘Indian Law and the Miner’s Canary: The Signs of Poison Gas’, Cleveland State Law Review, 39, 483.Google Scholar
  33. M. L. Tatum (2007) ‘Tribal Courts: Tensions Between Efforts to Develop Tribal Common Law and Pressures to Harmonize with State and Federal Courts’ in L. Backer (ed.) Harmonizing Law in an Era of Globalization: Convergence, Divergence and Resistance (Durham: Carolina Academic Press).Google Scholar
  34. M. L. Tatum and J. Kappus Shaw (2014) Law, Culture & Environment (Durham: Carolina Academic Press).Google Scholar
  35. T. Tso (1989) ‘The Process of Decision-Making in Tribal Courts’ (Occasional Paper, Natural Res. Law Ctr., University of Colorado School of Law).Google Scholar
  36. K. Washburn (2006) ‘Tribal Self Determination at the Crossroads’, Connecticut Law Review, 38, 777.Google Scholar
  37. R. Williams (1990) ‘Encounters on the Frontiers of International Human Rights Law: Refining the Terms of Indigenous Peoples’ Survival in the World’, Duke Law Journal, 660–704.Google Scholar
  38. R. Williams (1987) ‘Taking Rights Aggressively: The Perils and Promise of Critical Legal Theory for Peoples of Color’, Law & Inequity, 5, 103.Google Scholar
  39. R. Williams (1986) ‘The Algebra of Federal Indian Law: The Hard Trail of Decolonizing and Americanizing the White Man’s Indian Jurisprudence’, Wisconsin Law Review, 219.Google Scholar
  40. R. Yazzie (1994) ‘Life Comes From It: Navajo Justice Concepts’, New Mexico Law Review, 24, 175–90.Google Scholar

Legislation and Cases

  1. Indian Civil Rights Act 25 U.S.C. 1301–1303.Google Scholar
  2. Indian Country 25 U.S.C. 1151.Google Scholar
  3. Major Crimes Act 25 U.S.C. 1153.Google Scholar
  4. Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010.Google Scholar
  5. Violence Against Women Act of 2013.Google Scholar
  6. Atkinson Trading Co. v Shirley, 532 U.S. 645 (2001).Google Scholar
  7. Barron v City of Baltimore, 32 U.S. 243 (1833).Google Scholar
  8. Cherokee Nation v Georgia, 30 U.S. 1 (1831).Google Scholar
  9. Ex parte Crow Dog, 109 U.S. 556 (1883).Google Scholar
  10. Montana v United States, 450 U.S. 544 (1981).Google Scholar
  11. National Farmers Union Ins. Cos. v Crow Tribe, 471 U.S. 845 (1985).Google Scholar
  12. Nevada v Hicks, 533 U.S. 353 (2001).Google Scholar
  13. Oklahoma Tax Commission v Sac & Fox Nation, 508 U.S. 114 (1993).Google Scholar
  14. Oliphant v Suquamish Indian Tribe, 435 U.S. 191 (1978).Google Scholar
  15. Rave v Reynolds, 23 Indian L. Rep. 6150 (Winnebago Tribe of Neb. S. Ct. 1996).Google Scholar
  16. Santa Clara Pueblo v Martinez, 436 U.S. 49 (1978).Google Scholar
  17. Strate v A-1 Contractors, 520 US 438 (1997).Google Scholar
  18. Talton v Mayes, 163 U.S. 376 (1898).Google Scholar
  19. United States v Wheeler, 435 U.S. 313 (1978).Google Scholar
  20. U.S. v U.S. Fidelity & Guaranty Co., 309 U.S. 506 (1940).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer Hendry
    • 1
  • Melissa L. Tatum
    • 2
  1. 1.School of LawLeeds UniversityLeedsUK
  2. 2.James E Rogers College of LawUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

Personalised recommendations