The Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Race and Social Justice


From European colonialism to the establishment of the United States, the rights, history, and independence of Native Americans have been systematically stripped away. The American government expanded rapidly, forcibly displacing indigenous populations from their native lands and moving them to reservations with inferior resources and space. During a forced removal, often instituted by treaties between American Indian tribes and the federal government, government officials offered protection and access to resources in exchange for vast tribal land. Although treaty-making with American tribes ended over a century ago, their deleterious and often broken promises continue to haunt us.

Part I of this paper explores the evolution of the trust doctrine and the obligations it created between the federal government and Native Americans. This section illustrates how treaties and legal precedents gave rise to the trust doctrine presumption and its ultimate codification in the Snyder Act and the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA). Part II compares the Eighth and Ninth Circuits’ reasonings and argues that the Ninth Circuit’s analysis falls short on several fronts. Finally, Part III argues that the Supreme Court should resolve this circuit split and specify the federal government’s trust obligations in the healthcare sector. Then, Congress should amend the IHCIA to clearly determine how health care should apply to all federally recognized tribes, regardless of the spe-cific terms of their respective treaties.

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The Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Race and Social Justice

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St. Mary's University School of Law