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Bringing Congress and Indians Back into Federal Indian Law: The Restatement of the Law of American Indians

Abstract: Congress and Native Nations have renegotiated the federal-tribal relationship in the past fifty years. The courts, however, have failed to keep up with Congress and recognize this modern federal-tribal relationship. As a result, scholars, judges, and practitioners often characterize federal Indian law as incoherent and inconsistent. This Article argues that the Restatement of the Law of American Indians retells federal Indian law to close the gap between statutory and decisional law. It realigns federal Indian law with the modern federal-tribal relationship negotiated between Congress and tribal governments. Consistent with almost a half-century of congressional law and policy, the Restatement clarifies the foundational principles of federal Indian law and provides federal and state courts with guidance on how to interpret statutes related to Native governments and peoples. It provides courts with a vision of federal Indian law that is more coherent, easier to apply, and more reflective of the state of affairs in Indian Country than the decisional law adopted by the Supreme Court in the past fifty years.

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