31 Me. L. Rev. 5 (1979-1980)
A Survey of Eastern Indian Land Claims: 1970-1979

handle is hein.journals/maine31 and id is 15 raw text is: A SURVEY OF EASTERN INDIAN LAND
CLAIMS: 1970-1979*
Tim Vollmann*
The eastern Indian land claims are a remarkable phenomenon of
jurisprudence. Unmomentous at the time of their filing, the claims
have given rise to litigation attracting nation-wide attention, judicial
precedent directly affecting several dozen communities on the east
coast, and debates in Congress raising political and constitutional
questions that go to the heart of this nation's policy toward Indian
tribes. From a broad perspective, this essay surveys the eastern land
claims cases and highlights some of the resulting significant legal and
political developments.
Several myths have arisen in media reports on these legal claims
which, as a preliminary matter, should be dispelled. First, it is com-
monly misconceived that until recently the Nonintercourse Act' was
a dusty, obscure statute hidden in the bowels of the federal statute
books. On the contrary, the principle of inalienability expressed in
the Nonintercourse Act is a lynchpin of federal Indian law. All twen-
tieth century congressional authorizations to lease tribal lands are
based on the assumption that, in the absence of such specific authori-
zations, those lands could not be alienated.' Certainly there has been
no debate in the west over the applicability of the Nonintercourse
Act; only the Act's application in the east has been questioned for
many years.
Similarly, the press and some public officials have characterized
the foundation of these claims as a novel legal theory which was
unheard of before this decade. This, too, is incorrect. As early as 1905
the attorney for the Catawba Tribe in South Carolina approached the
Department of the Interior and claimed that the 1840 treaty between
the tribe and the state was void because it lacked congressional
* This essay has been adapted from the text of a speech that was to be gi% en at the
January 5, 1979 annual meeting of the Native American Rights Section of the Ameri-
can Association of Law Schools.
** B.A., California State, Fullerton; J.D., University of California (Los Angeles).
Mr. Vollmann is an attorney with the Office of the Solicitor, United States Department
of the Interior. The views expressed in this essay are those of the author and do not
necessarily reflect the position of the Interior Department.
1. Originally § 4 of the Act of July 22, 1790, ch. 33, 1 Stat. 138; thereafter re-
enacted without substantial amendment. Act of March 1, 1793, ch. 19, § 8, 1 Stat. 330;
Act of May 19, 1796, ch. 30, § 12, 1 Stat. 472; Act of March 3, 1799, ch. 46, § 12, 1
Stat. 746; Act of March 30, 1802, ch. 13, § 12, 2 Stat. 143; Act of June 30, 1834, ch.
161, § 12, 4 Stat. 730 (codified at 25 U.S.C. § 177 (1976)).
2. E.g., Indian Tribal Mineral Leasing Act of May 11, 1938. Pub. L. No. 75-506,
52 Stat. 347 (codified at 25 U.S.C. § 396a (1976)).

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