New Scholarship from Grant Christensen: “A View from American Courts: The Year in Indian Law 2017”

Written by: Matthew Fletcher

Primary Source : Turtle Talk, March 30, 2018

On SSRN, here.


This paper summarizes the topics and trends in Indian law confronted by courts in 2017. Designed as an update that will be useful to practitioners as well as scholars, the paper breaks the discussion down into more than forty topics and subtopics. For this paper I tracked and read all 646 judicial opinions issued by state and federal courts that squarely decided questions of federal Indian law. From those cases I have distilled this update. Ideally the first in an annual collection. 

The paper includes an empirical discussion of Indian law looking at which circuits and districts are presented with the most Indian law questions. It also examines what topics receive the most coverage providing a summary of more than 200 ICWA opinions as well as capturing obscure topics like the 4 cases decided on the Navajo-Hopi Rehabilitation Act. It captures important moments in Indian law like Justice Thomas dissenting from denial of cert. in a land into trust case but also highlights the return of Leonard Peltier to federal court. 

I hope the user finds this comprehensive update a useful survey of Indian law in 2017.


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Matthew Fletcher
Matthew L.M. Fletcher is Professor of Law at Michigan State University College of Law and Director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center. He is the Chief Justice of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians Supreme Court and also sits as an appellate judge for the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, the Hoopa Valley Tribe, and the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Indians. He is a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, located in Peshawbestown, Michigan. In 2010, Professor Fletcher was elected to the American Law Institute.