APRIL 11, 1968


The ICRA attempted to provide tribal governments certain protections afforded by the U.S. Constitution.  However, it also served as a significant Federal intrusion into tribal internal affairs.  The U.S. Supreme Court had established that Indian tribes were not bound by the Bill of Rights’ protections.  Congressional hearings focusing on corrupt, tyrannical tribal officials, led to the ICRA.  While the Act included most constitutional protections, it modified some, such as separation of church and state, in recognition of the unique cultural status of tribes.  The law caused tribal judicial systems to mirror other American courts which homogenized them.  However, in 1978, the Supreme Court limited the impact of ICRA in Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez.  In a gender discrimination case concerning tribal membership, the Court held that tribal sovereign immunity prevented a suit against the tribe.  Currently, other than in habeas corpus proceedings, ICRA-based actions are limited in tribal forums.  

Source:  “Indian Civil Rights Act,” Encyclopedia.com.  Retrieved 1/28/2020, https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/united-states-and-canada/north-american-indigenous-peoples/indian-civil-rights-act-1968
Photo:  Warren K. Leffler, U.S. News & World Report, 1968.  Public Domain.

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