Federal Indian law and environmental policy: A social continuity of violence

Peter Jacques, Sharon Ridgeway, Richard Witmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Tribal environmental policy is generally dictated by the federal government as a matter of fiduciary responsibility. This relationship exists despite sacred treaties negotiated in reciprocal, government-to-government relationships that explicitly placed reserved tribal land bases exclusively in tribal control. Fiduciary responsibility or the trust relationship, in the case of reserved tribal lands, is the legacy of the doctrine of discovery, a race-based European jurisprudential tool used to dispossess Indian people of their vast land holdings in North America. This tool has been institutionalized into federal Indian law and policy instead of the treaty arrangements in such a way that legal scholars have yet to unearth the inherent violence in current federal Indian environmental policy. We argue that this violence was constituted by removing the government-to-government relationship (regarding reservation land), resulting in a disruption of traditional American Indian values that had previously maintained sustainable land management practices. Thus, contemporary federal Indian environmental policy bears the burden of restoring two important broken relationships: the government-to-government relationship between tribes and the federal government, and the relationship of tribes to nature that had previously been protected by treaties. The first step in this process, and the subject of this Article, is to recognize the violence inherent in today's federal Indian policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)223-250
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Environmental Law and Litigation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2003
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Law


Dive into the research topics of 'Federal Indian law and environmental policy: A social continuity of violence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this