Published on December 26, 2012 by Carol
Author: Paul Brodeur
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In a lawsuit for the return of Indian lands, neither party can afford to lose: Native American plaintiffs risk termination of all claims to the land, while non-Indian defendants stand to lose homes and businesses that they may have owned for generations. Partly because of the high stakes involved and partly because such litigation is extremely costly and time-consuming, 3 few Indian land claims have proceeded through trial and final judgment on appeal. Although Indians have sometimes met with success in preliminary stages of land-claim litigation, none of the major land claims brought in recent years has resulted in a final verdict for the return of a major tract of land to Indians. Such claims have generally resulted either in defeat for the Indians or in negotiated settlement.
Paul Brodeur’s Restitution recounts the events surrounding two recent land-claim cases, one involving the Mashpee Indians of Cape Cod, the other the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Indians of Maine. Brodeur, a journalist who has written books on other legal and political controversies, 5 elegantly relates why these Indians decided to go to court to vindicate their rights and how they and their attorneys framed their legal strategies. Basing his accounts on interviews with the Indians and their attorneys, Brodeur portrays the anti-Indian hysteria and intricate political maneuvering that the lawsuits generated. The result is a finely crafted chronicle of two political struggles, one ending in utter failure for the Indians, the other in a somewhat more successful compromise.