Washington Law Review




The Indian Civil Rights Act, Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, extended portions of the Bill of Rights to individual Indians as against their tribal governments and provided federal habeas corpus relief to review alleged violations of these rights. The Indian Bill of Rights marked the culmination of a complete reversal in federal recognition of Indian constitutional rights. Until 1965 federal courts had recognized Indian tribes as quasi-sovereign entities. Individual Indians were guaranteed their constitutional rights in relations with federal and state governments, but not with their tribal governments. The only rights Indian governments recognized when dealing with Indians were those guaranteed by tribal custom and tradition. In 1965 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Colliflower v. Garland, held that federal courts may issue a writ of habeas corpus to determine the legality of detention of an Indian jailed by a tribal court without benefit of constitutional due process. Colliflower was reaffirmed and expanded in 1969 by Settler v. Yakima Tribal Court. The wisdom of Congress in adopting habeas corpus as a means of review must be examined. Habeas was the only means available to the courts, but not the only means available to Congress. This note will examine: (1) the inconsistency of Congress's adoption of habeas corpus relief; (2) the Indian tribal justice system; (3) the impact of traditional habeas corpus review on that system; (4) alternatives to habeas corpus review.

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