What role is history playing in settling contemporary lawsuits regarding Native Americans?

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larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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History actually forms a significant basis for Native American Claims in their present lawsuits. Congress passed a number of acts in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries collectively known as the Indian Intercourse Acts, or more commonly the Indian non-Intercourse Acts. Although the first of these statutes contained expiration dates, the last two, passed in 1802 and 1834 did not contain an expiration date. The last such act, passed in 1834 and later preserved as a federal statute (25 U.S. Code, Section 177 reads:

[N]o purchase, grant, lease, or other conveyance of land, or of any title or claim thereto, from any Indian nation or tribe of Indians, shall be of any validity in law or equity, unless the same be made by treaty or convention entered into pursuant the constitution.

Present day lawsuits have alleged that the states and other entities have taken property from the Indians in violation of the act cited above. The defendants in such actions have raised a series of defenses, including the expiration of the applicable Statute of Limitations. At least one such case, South Carolina vs. Catawba indian Tribe was settled by a cash settlement to the tribe.