The Department of the Interior's Appeals Process and Native American Natural Resource Policy, 1970-94
Jarding, Lilias Jones, Policy Studies Journal
Department of the Interior (DOI) administrative appeals involving Native American lands and resources were studied to find out whether these cases or their outcomes had changed during the "self-determination" era of U.S. Indian policy. This policy's stated intention has been greater Native American control of lands and resources, but in the DOI arena this research indicates the opposite as a policy outcome.
The Department of the Interior (DOI) holds a sweeping congressional mandate over Native American lands within the boundaries of the United States--a mandate of "plenary," or absolute, power over all aspects of Native American lives (Barsh & Henderson, 1980, pp. 209--216; Wilkins, 1997, pp. 24-27). This mandate is not accepted uniformly. Therefore, it is not surprising that the DOI's role has been a consistent source of controversy since Congress made the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) part of the DOI in 1849 (cahn, 1970, esp. pt. 3; Nelson & Sheley, 1985; O'Brien, 1989).
Given this high level of controversy, it also is not surprising that decisions made by lower-level Department personnel often are appealed to higher Department levels, where judicial bodies have been established to decide such cases. The outcomes of these administrative appeals over the period 1970-94, as they impacted the lands and resources of Native Americans, are the focus of this study. These decisions provide one way to measure the outcome of U.S. policy toward Native Americans, an arena that is complex and recently has become more visible.
Definition of the Problem
In recent years, there has been increased public, scholarly, and official discussion of the role and power of Native Americans and tribal governments within U.S. boundaries. Much of the discussion by non-Indians, led by the media, has assumed that Native nations' power has increased. Some Native Americans agree with this assessment, but many disagree, citing a history of short-term gains and long-term losses in indigenous control over land and resources (Alfred, 1995, pp. 6-7; Barsh, 1994; Campobasso, 1994; Deloria, 1985, 1991; Gover, 1987; Urge, 1977; D. Lester, November 1994, personal interview; MacPherson, 1993; Miller, Tsiantar, Murr, & Kenney, 1988; J. Morrin, June 1994, personal interview; "New interest," 1993; Robbins 1992; B. Robideau, March 1993, personal interview; Serwer, 1993; Tecumseh Group, 1997).
Despite all the discussion, no one has attempted to measure systematically the outcomes of interactions among tribal, state, and U.S. authorities. This lack is particularly important in the context of issues involving land and its attached natural resources. From the formation of the first treaty commissions in the days of the Articles of Confederation to the current location of issues involving Native Americans in the House of Representatives' Resources Committee, the control of land has been at the center of Native American-U.S. relations. Before turning to the data collected for this study, a summary of this complex policy arena is in order.
The original U.S. policy toward Native American nations was to negotiate international treaties that would define and protect the new nation's territorial claims. In the early 1800s, this policy ran parallel to the policies of removing Native Americans from the eastern United States and exterminating them in the West. To the latter end, the Indian Office was formed in 1824 within the Department of War (Churchill, 1993. pp. 38-47; O'Brien, 1989. chap. 4).
After the DOI was formed, the Indian Office found a new bureaucratic home within the Department. Originally a hodgepodge of agencies, the Department's focus became the management of land, primarily the "public lands" carved out of the western half of the continent when Native Americans were dislocated or defeated (Churchill, 1995, pp. 27-31; Switzer, 1994. p. 52). 
The Indian Office and its …
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Publication information: Article title: The Department of the Interior's Appeals Process and Native American Natural Resource Policy, 1970-94. Contributors: Jarding, Lilias Jones - Author. Journal title: Policy Studies Journal. Volume: 27. Issue: 2 Publication date: Summer 1999. Page number: 217. © 1999 Policy Studies Organization. COPYRIGHT 1999 Gale Group.
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