"Federal Indian law," as it is called in the cases and statutes, is a framework imposed by the United States government for its own purposes on peoples who were present before the United States and who are still present. In this context, the difference between "American Indian" and "Native-American" is nonexistent. Both are names given by outsiders. There are no American Indians or Native Americans. There are many different peoples, hundreds, bearing their own names.
"Legalization" is a name for the process of incorporating into a legal system that which exists outside and independent of the system. "Legalization of American Indians" means the process by which United States law reached the lives of peoples who were in existence prior to that law.
The Western system of government by law is the product of long and bloody struggles among the peoples who came to colonize this land and later imposed "federal Indian law" on the indigenous peoples. Some say the system developed into its present form by incorporating information indigenous peoples offered to the colonists. In any event, the legal system that created "federal Indian law" did not come full-blown into the world. It has a history and that history is still happening. A study of the "legalization of American Indians" sheds light on that history as it is intertwined with the ongoing histories of the indigenous peoples to whom it is directed. (P. d’ Errico 2001).
- Faculty: Roxann Smith