After World War II, Congress felt obliged to establish a forum specifically to hear and remedy the complaints of Indian tribes against the United States, and, in 1947, Harry S. Truman signed into law the Indian Claims Commission. Focusing on the unique claims of the Chiricahua Apaches, Wild Justice examines the personalities involved in and decisions made by this extraordinary tribunalthe first time any national government established a court to redress grievances of its native peopleand the efforts made by hundreds of other tribes to gain restitution.
Jake Page, who has written extensively on the South-west Indians, and Michael Lieder, a legal scholar, bring to light this little-known saga in American history. The Chiricahua were represented by an unlikely pair of lawyers: Israel Weissbrodt, born to illiterate Jewish emigrants fromPoland, educated at Columbia University, and trained by William O. Douglas; and David Cobb, a Mayflower descendant and Harvard graduate. When the government misdated the taking of the Apache lands and left an opening for legal wrangling, this odd couple pounced. The result was a $22 million settlement, forty times what the tribe had asked fora spectacular sum in total, but, divided among several thousand Apaches, it proved slim atonement, and it was at best a bittersweet victory.
Rather than negotiating the Indian claims and considering present needs, the United States insisted on battling over ancient grievances in the inherently adversarial Anglo-American legal system, which was incapable of grasping the Indians' way of life. The very concept of land ownership was foreign to the Indians, but payment to the tribes for loss of acreage was all the legal system could muster in recompense for decades of injustice. The destruction of religion, tribal sovereignty, and whole cultures remained unaddressed, and these issues plague U.S./Indian affairs to this day.
If "our treatment of Indians reflects the rise and fall of our democratic faith," Wild Justice is the remarkable history of that failure and the unbridgeable legal and cultural chasm at its heart.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Edition description:||1 ED|
|Product dimensions:||6.48(w) x 9.80(h) x 1.13(d)|
About the Author
Jake Page, a former editor of Smithsonian magazine, is a science writer and novelist whose fictional work includes The Stolen Gods, a Southwestern mystery concerning the theft of Indian religious artifacts. Called by The Denver Post "one of the Southwest's most distinguished authors," he has written numerous magazine articles on Indian affairs. With his wife, photographer Susanne Page, he wrote Hopi and Navajo, and is producing a forthcoming volume on American Indian mythology.