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Tribal Government Today

Revised Edition

by James J. Lopach, Margery Hunter Brown, and Richmond L. Clow

Hardcover Price $49.00

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"Tribal Government Today's regional case studies give insights into the historical and cultural roots of tribal behavior and lay a foundation for future research in Indian politics. As Indian tribes struggle to establish the basic foundations for self-rule, they are faced with the same issues that have vexed political theorists since the ancient Greeks—how to structure a government of free people that works."

—American Political Science Review


An account of Fourth World peoples within a First World nation, Tribal Government Today, Revised Edition is a critical analysis of the contemporary progress of Indian tribes toward self-government and economic sufficiency. Focusing on seven reservations in Montana representing the diverse opportunities and problems facing Indian tribes in the West, this book approaches tribal government from the twin perspectives of reservation politics and the legal context within which reservation conflicts must be solved.

Unlike previous studies of Indian politics, Tribal Government Today is neither a critique of American Indian policy over the years nor an analysis of federal, state, and tribal jurisdictional ambiguities. The authors—a political scientist, a lawyer, and a historian—focus instead on the distinctive political culture that has evolved on each reservation in terms of the reservation settings, governmental structures and procedures, and a particular brand of politics. The critical inquiry is how far the reservations are from genuine self-determination and whether that goal is impossibility for some. The authors conclude with suggestions for reforming tribal government within three main areas: the separation of powers, the role of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and tribal acceptance of the concept of fundamental law.

The contents include: The Contours of Reservations Politics, Indian Law and Tribal Government; The Blackfeet: Their Own Government to Help Them; The Crow: A Politics of Rick; The Northern Cheyenne: A Politics of Values; The Fort Peck Reservation: The Factor of Leadership; The Fort Belknap Reservation: The Reality of Poverty; The Rocky Boy's Reservation: A Struggle for Government; The Flathead Reservation: A Struggle for Government; The Flathead Reservation: From Enclave to Self-Government; and Reflection on Tribal Government.

There has been surprisingly little writing about the condition of contemporary tribal government. Library shelves are filled with works on other American and foreign governments, but an inquirer must learn about tribal government incidentally and in piecemeal fashion. This state of scholarship is regrettable because of the importance of the modern Indian self-determination movement. Reservation politics certainly affect the quality of life in Indian communities, and the outlook for Indian self-determination cannot be assessed without an understanding of tribal government.


James J. Lopach is a professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Montana.

The late Margery Hunter Brown was a professor emeritus in the School of Law at the University of Montana.

Richmond L. Clow is a  historian and professor of Native American Studies at the University of Montana and is the co-author of Tribal Government Today: Politics on Montana Indian Reservations and Trusteeship in Change.

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  • Hardcover Price: $49.00
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-87081-477-8
  • Publication Year: 1998
  • Discount Type: Short
  • Author: by James J. Lopach, Margery Hunter Brown, and Richmond L. Clow
  • ECommerce Code: 978-0-87081-477-8
  • Get Permissions: Get Permission

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