Making Indian Law The Hualapai Land Case and the Birth of Ethnohistory Christian W. McMillen

Publication date:
23 Feb 2007
Yale University Press
304 pages: 228 x 152 x 24mm
2 maps

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In 1941, a groundbreaking U.S. Supreme Court decision changed the field of Indian law, setting off an intellectual and legal revolution that continues to reverberate around the world. This book tells for the first time the story of that case, United States, as Guardian of the Hualapai Indians of Arizona, v. Santa Fe Pacific Railroad Co., which ushered in a new way of writing Indian history to serve the law of land claims. Since 1941, the Hualapai case has travelled the globe. Wherever and whenever indigenous land claims are litigated, the shadow of the Hualapai case falls over the proceedings. Threatened by railroad claims and by an unsympathetic government in the post - World War I years, Hualapai activists launched a campaign to save their reservation, a campaign which had at its centre documenting the history of Hualapai land use. The book recounts how key individuals brought the case to the Supreme Court against great odds and highlights the central role of the Indians in formulating new understandings of native people, their property, and their past.

Christian W. McMillen is assistant professor of history and American studies, University of Virginia.

?Highly original, this book offers unique analyses of ethnohistory, the place of Indians in Indian law, and the connections of Indian land rights litigation to the international world.??Sydney Harring, author of Crow Dog?s Case: American Indian Sovereignty, Tribal Law, and United States Law in the Nineteenth Century 

"This outstanding book teaches us that ?Indian law? is not something dreamed up in Washington, D.C., but something created by Indian people through struggle, imagination and persistence. Every community deserves to be treated with the intelligence and respect that McMillen exhibits in these pages and every American should feel both shame and pride at the story he tells."?Frederick E. Hoxie, Swanlund Professor of History, University of Illinois

?This captivating account of the epic struggle over Hualapai land occupation offers rich insights into American Indian law and also reminds us of how the American legal system, with all its flaws, sometimes stands tall as the ultimate protector of dispossessed peoples.??Charles Wilkinson, author of Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations

"The author skillfully untangles the legal complexities surrounding the Hualapai land dispute in a readable, informative narrative."?Byron E. Pearson, The Journal of American History

"Essential reading for everyone interested in the rise of modern ethnohistory or modern developments in jurisprudence regarding Native rights and land claims."?William A. Sumruld, New Mexico Historical Review

Selected as a finalist for the 2008 Carolyn Bancroft Prize given by the Denver Public Library.

"[A] breath-taking study. . . . McMillen's thorough, convincing, and utterly intelligible analysis brings an astoundingly complex history to life. . . . This book stands out as one of the finest analyses of how America's Indian peoples reversed powerful forces to preserve their contemporary homelands."?Ned Blackhawk, Australasian Journal of American Studies 

Winner of the 2008 William Nelson Cromwell Book Award, given by the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation

Winner of the 2008 John Phillip Reid Book Award, given by the American Society for Legal History.

Winner of the 2008 Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin Prize, given by the American Society for Ethnohistory.

"[A] fascinating and rigorous work on twentieth-century Native American History. Scholars exploring the history of U.S. academia, its involvement in the legal system, and the disciplinary emergence of ethnohistory will find rich material here. This book is a must-read for those studying aboriginal land claims across the globe, for by the end McMillen provides convincing evidence that, "Wherever and whenever indigenous land claims are litigated the shadow of the Hualapai case falls over the proceedings."?Angela Parker, Comparative Studies in Society and History