Global Encyclopedia of Territorial Rights

Living Edition
| Editors: Michael Kocsis

Canons of Construction in Federal Indian Law in US Jurisprudence

Living reference work entry



The Canons of Construction have developed within United States Jurisprudence to provide a foundation for the interpretation of Federal Indian Law. This existing inequity had skewed legal outcomes in favor of those who wrote the laws.

Background and Definitions

In Jones v. Meehan (1899), Justice Gray remarked that “(t)he construction of treaties is the peculiar province of the judiciary, and, except in cases purely political, Congress has no constitutional power to settle the rights under a treaty or to affect titles already granted by the treaty itself” (at p. 32). The interpretation, not the authoring, of treaties is the function to which Justice Gray refers. The Supreme Court has developed guidelines for interpretation of treaties and federal statutes relating to Native American tribes. That body of guidelines is referred to as the canons of construction for...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Native American and Indigenous StudiesValdosta State UniversityValdostaUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Lavonna L. Lovern
    • 1
  1. 1.Valdosta State UniversityValdostaUSA