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

The Lamar Series in Western History
Publication date:
28 Feb 2007
Yale University Press
304 pages: 235 x 156mm
2 maps

Buy this eBook

Yale eBooks are available in a variety of formats, including Kindle, ePub and ePDF. You can purchase this title from a number of online retailers (see below).

In 1941, after decades of struggling to hold on to the remainder of their aboriginal home, the Hualapai Indians finally took their case to the Supreme Court—and won. The Hualapai case was the culminating event in a legal and intellectual revolution that transformed Indian law and ushered in a new way of writing Indian history that provided legal grounds for native land claims. But Making Indian Law is about more than a legal decision.  It’s the story of Hualapai activists, and eventually sympathetic lawyers, who challenged both the Santa Fe Railroad and the U.S. government to a courtroom showdown over the meaning of Indian property rights—and the Indian past.
At the heart of the Hualapai campaign to save the reservation was documenting the history of Hualapai land use. Making Indian Law showcases the central role that the Hualapai and their lawyers played in formulating new understandings of native people, their property, and their past. To this day, the impact of the Hualapai decision is felt wherever and whenever indigenous land claims are litigated throughout the world.

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