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Special Provisions Concerning Indians

Learn about special canons of interpretation for Indian treaties and statutes, the applicability of general laws to Indians, and the government’s power to abrogate treaties.


Because Indian treaties regulate critical issues, such as reserving land and water rights, there are special rules that control how courts interpret Indian treaties. These rules are known as Indian canons of construction or canons of interpretation. Let’s look at the four main cannons that control how Indian treaties, statutes, and executive orders are interpreted.

I. Interpret Language Liberally to Favor Indians

Imagine that the United States signed a treaty with an Indian tribe in the 1800s...