BYU Law Review


Indian tribes have endured as separate governments despite the taking of their land, the forced relocation of their people, and the abrogation of their treaty rights. Many threats to tribal existence have stemmed from federal policies aimed at assimilating Indians into mainstream American society. In crafting these policies, members of Congress often relied on the input of non-Indians, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs. As a result, American Indians were largely left out of the federal policy–making process. This started to change in the 1970s when Congress adopted the Tribal Self-Determination Policy, which encouraged tribal participation in the creation of federal Indian policy. Tribes have responded to this opening of the political process by increasingly lobbying Congress. This Article explores how tribes have used legislative strategies to influence federal Indian policy. It demonstrates how tribes have used lobbying as a way to build resilience over time by influencing the development of federal Indian policies that protect tribal sovereignty. This Article emphasizes the role of American Indian voices in federal policy–making and shows how tribes have used legislative advocacy to initiate new policies, to reverse court decisions, and to oversee the implementation of existing policies. In conclusion, this Article considers some of the implications of this research for federal Indian law and interest group and advocacy studies more generally.


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