Tassie Hanna, Sam Deloria, and Charles E. Trimble have published “The Commission on State-Tribal Relations: Enduring Lessons in the Modern State-Tribal Relationship” (PDF: CSTR article final) in the Tulsa Law Review.
Forty years ago the relationship between states and tribes was primarily adversarial, both in perception and practice. Leaders of both state and tribal governments looked to the courts or Congress to define it in their favor, until events led to the creation of the Commission on State-Tribal Relations (“CSTR”) and the evolution of a different approach. The CSTR was the first organized national attempt to study the state-tribal relationship, and the principles it developed are still relevant to successful interactions of Indian and non-Indian governments. This article, written by the founders of the Commission on State-Tribal Relations, traces the historical development of a new approach to state-tribal relations in the 1970’s, during a time of heightened tension between state and tribal governments.
This is an absolute must-read for anyone working on the ground in Indian country right now, and certainly any student that wants to work in Indian affairs. Tassie, Sam, and Chuck all but invented the field of intergovernmental agreements between Indian tribes, states, local units of government, and the feds. In the 1970s, negotiating between governments with long histories of animosity was much more difficult than it is now. But even in many areas of Indian country — I’m looking at you South Dakota — intergovernmental negotiations remain difficult. This paper will be useful in returning to first principles.