January 7, 2008

Deborah Rosen Explores Early American Indian Policy-Making in Latest Book

History professor examines state and territorial policies that affected early American Indian citizenship

Deborah Rosen, professor and head of history, has taken an in-depth look at early American Indian policy-making in her most recent book, American Indians and State Law: Sovereignty, Race and Citizenship, 1790 – 1880 (University of Nebraska, December 2007). The publication examines the role that state and territorial governments played in extending jurisdiction over Indians as well as defining borders and the meaning of citizenship.

“Belying the common assumption that Indian policy and regulation in the United States were exclusively within the federal government’s domain, the book reveals how states and territories extended their legislative and judicial authority over American Indians between the early national period and the Reconstruction era,” explains Rosen. “In this book, I detail how state and territorial governments regulated American Indians and brought them into local criminal courts, as well as how Indians contested states’ actions and asserted tribal sovereignty.”

Several students assisted Rosen with her publication as EXCEL scholars. These students were Robert Alessi ’00, Tiffany Blakey ’01, Phillip Dudley ’04, Andrea Kotrosits ’03, and Michael Sparrow ’04.

The students handled a plethora of primary source documents that were foundational to Rosen’s research, including judicial opinions, trial records, statutes, legislative hearings, constitutional convention debates, newspapers, speeches, letters, and official reports.

The finished book is a “discussion of nationwide patterns complemented by case studies focusing on New York, Georgia, New Mexico, Michigan, Minnesota, Louisiana, and Massachusetts that demonstrate the decentralized nature of much of early American Indian policy,” according to Rosen.

In addition to its cornerstone use of primary sources and divergent conclusion, Rosen’s book is the first to present a broad study of state and territorial Indian policies, laws, and judicial decisions in early United States history.

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