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2024 New Year Update on US Legal Research

2024 is off to a good start with several online U.S. legal information stories from the Law Library of Congress.

On January 18th, 2024 The Law Library of Congress In Custodia Legis blog posted a blog post by Jennifer Davis on the Anniversary of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act.

“Felix Cohen noted that, “[f]rom the earliest years of the Republic the Indian tribes have been recognized as “distinct, independent political communities’” (Cohen 1941, 122). Despite the early nation-to-nation relations between tribal nations and the United States, self-determination was not codified. After termination policies of the 1950s were put in place, many tribal nations and organizations lost over three million acres of tribal lands and their legal standing. Termination is generally acknowledged to be a policy failure; “[n]ative[s] … often returned to their communities to avoid staggering levels of unemployment and poverty.” “Although some Natives … chose to move off reservations to urban areas, fifty percent returned home to their families and reservations within five years because of a lack of job opportunities, education, and social services.” Activists, grassroots groups, and tribes started working to establish self-determination in law; local communities wanted to direct their own social programs and manage their own land.

In Ada Deer’s biography, Making a Difference, she talked about working to reverse the disastrous Menominee Termination Act and to get the Menominee Restoration Act passed in December 1973. The Menominee were the first tribal nation to have tribal sovereignty restored to them from the prior termination policy of the federal government. On January 4, 1975, Congress passed the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975, Pub. L. No. 93-638, 88 Stat. 2203 (ISDEAA) which reversed the termination policy for all tribal nations. Termination took away land and forced tribal citizens off reservations and into cities. The Indian Self-Determination Act recognized tribal sovereignty and gave funds for tribal programs.

With the passing of the act, tribal governments and organizations can exercise sovereign powers, make laws and a judicial system; manage their own economies and natural resources; and provide and manage education, health, housing, public safety, and cultural programs. It has been a successful policy; Strommer and Osborne noted, “Expanded and refined in subsequent legislation in 1994 and 2000, the Self-Governance Policy has proven so successful that today over 50% of all federal Indian programs are carried out by tribes rather than federal agencies.”

In the case of Ada Deer and the Menominee tribe, under termination policies their logging industry declined, when the Menominee regained control of their forestlands via the restoration act, their forests became a model for sustainable forestry and silviculture. Self-determination provided many similar successes with other tribal nations, such as the many language revitalization programs that are a top priority for tribes today. The ISDEAA has helped with programs and services for urban Natives as well. “Nonprofit urban Indian community centers that are funded through a variety of sources seek to serve urban Indians” (Henson, 2008, 351). Centers like these (e.g., Minneapolis American Indian CenterUnited Indians of All Tribes Foundation) provide services to natives far from their tribal areas.

As the Indian Health Service noted, “Tribal leaders and members are in the best position to understand the health care needs and priorities of their communities,” and this is equally true of the other key societal functions that tribal nations and organizations manage. “Tribes around the country are investing in their ability to get things done for their citizens, in ways previously rendered impossible by federal paternalism, red tape, off-reservation special interests, and a lack of resources. Importantly, these investments account for a growing number of tribal successes…” (Henson, 2008, 10). As the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act continues into its fifth decade, tribal nations continue to build their governments and services to help their citizens thrive.”

Note: This article is very relevant to me because I live in Wisconsin where the Menominee Tribe is located and I am living on land formerly occupied by several Wisconsin tribes. Wisconsin will now give a full ride scholarship to any enrolled member of a Wisconsin tribe. And they are including tribal members in environmental stewardship decisions made by the state.

On January 19th , 2024 The Law Library of Congress In Custodia Legis blog posted a blog post by Aaron Lombard on the U.S. laws of piracy. “When thinking of “piracy,” what comes to mind? Perhaps sloopsBlackbeard, and swashbuckling tales of adventure? Or perhaps you have looked at the Law Library’s Piracy Trials Collection, browsed our story map, or read previous blog posts about piracy. You might even be familiar with the mention of piracy in Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution which gives Congress the power to “define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas.”

But have you ever wondered if there are current federal laws on piracyTitle 18, Chapter 81 of the United States Code covers all of the actions that would be classified as piracy and are in force today. Besides committing piracy, it also includes knowingly supporting the actions of a known pirate. For example, 18 USC §1657 makes corroboration with pirates illegal and carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.” The post continues to explore a recent case where this law was used to convict someone.

On January 28th, 2024 The Law Library of Congress Global Legal Monitor posted an article about the United Kingdom: Parts of New National Security Act Come into Force

The post begins with a summary: “Parts of the National Security Act 2023 entered into force in the United Kingdom (U.K.) on December 20, 2023. The act, described as “the most significant reform of espionage law in a century,” modernizes espionage laws that were put in place to counter the threat posed by German spies before and after World War I. The act “brings together a suite of new measures and further protects the UK’s national security, the safety of the British public and the UK’s vital interests from the hostile activities of foreign states.” It updates the investigative powers and capabilities of the U.K.’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies and introduces a number of offenses that aim to ensure the safety of the country.” This post by Clare Feikert-Ahalt describes the parts of the act in more detail.

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