Monday, November 17, 2008

Reid Prize to McMillen for Making Indian Law

Christian W. McMillen, University of Virginia, was awarded the John Phillip Reid Book Award last weekend at the American Society for Legal History meeting, for his book, Making Indian Law: The Hualapai Land Case andthe Birth of Ethnohistory (Yale University Press, 2007). The announcement follows:

John Phillip Reid Book Award
Named for John Phillip Reid, the prolific legal historian and founding member of the Society, and made possible by the generous contributions of his friends and colleagues, the John Phillip Reid Book Award is an annual award for the best book published in English in the previous year in any of the fields broadly defined as Anglo-American legal history.
Christian W. McMillen's Making Indian Law: The Hualapai Land Case andthe Birth of Ethno history is a deeply researched and elegantly written study of the Hualapai case and its background.
In 1941, after decades of struggling to hold on to the remainder of their aboriginal home, the Hualapai Indians finally took their case to the Supreme Court-and won. The Hualapai case was the culminating event in a legal and intellectual revolution that transformed Indian law and ushered in a new way of writing Indian history that provided legal grounds for native land claims. But Making Indian Law is about more than a legal decision. It is the story of Hualapai activists, and eventually sympathetic lawyers, who challenged both the Santa Fe Railroad and the U.S. government to a courtroom showdown over the meaning of Indian property rights-and the Indian past. At the heart of the Hualapai campaign to save the reservation was documenting the history of Hualapai land use. Making Indian Law showcases the central role that the Hualapai and their lawyers played in formulating new understandings of native people, their property, and their past. It not only shows how contestants reshape historical narratives in the courtroom, but how history itself is constructed and reconstructed to reflect new understandings and new needs, without losing its essential truth.
To this day, the impact of the Hualapai decision is felt wherever and whenever indigenous land claims are litigated throughout the world.The Hualapai case transformed federal law addressing Native American issues. Making Indian Law similarly transforms our historical understanding of that transformation.

Hat tip: H-Law.