In recent years there has been growing resentment from what one might term, for lack of a better phrase, the "anti-trust" segment. These commentators have offered a host of arguments to support their position: the trust doctrine has been and is still used primarily to "give moral color to depredations of tribes;" it is "an assertion of unrestrained political power over Indians, power that may be exercised without Indian consent and without substantial legal restraint;" and it is really a "metaphor for federal control of Indian affairs without signifying any enforceable rights of the tribal `beneficiaries.'" Yet others suggest that the trust doctrine is an "illusion unsupported by legal authority" and that through it Congress has become "the source of largely unrestrained federal power to regulate all aspects of tribal existence—from the management and disposal of Indian land and resources, to the imposition of federal criminal jurisdiction over tribal members, even the dissolution of tribal government." In sum, these scholars dramatically show that "the trust doctrine has proved to be a pliable instrument of nearly unlimited federal control and neglect.
Copyright © 1997 Akwe:kon Press, American Indian Program, Cornell University. This article first appeared in Native Americas (March 1997), 24-31.
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Wilkins, David E. “Convoluted Essence: Indian Rights and the Federal Trust Doctrine.” Native Americas 14, no. 1 (March 1997), 24-31.