The Supreme Court Carcieri v. Salazar Decision: A Qualitative Analysis of How the Court’s Decision Negatively Affected Native American Tribes Using Power Theory

Victoria S. Miranda


Since the time English settlers arrived in America, they strived to maintain an authoritative relationship with the Native people that inhabited the land before them. Throughout history, the relationship between Native Americans and the European settlers has consisted of numerous laws and litigation to maintain a relationship that placed power in the hands of the settlers and their descendants. This relationship and power struggle between the two parties have existed for hundreds of years and continue today. In 2009, the Supreme Court of the United States decided on the case of Carcieri v. Salazar, a decision that has negatively affected many tribes around the United States. The decision implemented new legislation that prohibited a large number of federally recognized tribes from placing their lands into land trusts. This aspect of the decision, as well as many other aspects, significantly disadvantages the tribes’ ability to be self-sustaining. Therefore, the hypothesis tested in this study is that if the power of the United States federal and state government outweighs the power given to the Native American tribes, then the ones with power, i.e. the United States government, will have the ability to negatively affect the tribes’ ability to self-sustain. Thus, the theory that guides this essay is the power theory, defined as the ability of Actor A to get Actor B to do what he would not otherwise do or not to do what he would otherwise do. To test for the tenability of the hypothesis and the efficacy of the theory, a qualitative analysis on secondary and primary sources (comprising government documents, books, articles, online sources, and expert interviews) was conducted. The findings from the analysis confirm the hypothesis and led to the conclusion that the power bestowed in the United States government does in fact gives it the opportunity to disadvantage the various tribes over which it wields power.


Mashpee Wampanoag, Carcieri, Salazar, Native Americans

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