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A true champion of justice

In Justice Ginsburg’s nearly three decades on the Supreme Court, she adjudicated hundreds of cases, wrote dozens of opinions, and had an overall mixed record when it came to tribal law.

For example, in her relatively early Sherrill v. Oneida (2005) decision, the Court held that repurchase of traditional tribal lands 200 years later did not restore tribal sovereignty to that land. Some of her other decisions did uphold tribal sovereignty, though. In Herrera v. Wyoming (2019), for example, the Court held that Wyoming's statehood did not void the Crow Tribe’s right to hunt on "unoccupied lands of the United States" under an 1868 treaty.

An analysis of Ginsburg’s history notes that her more recent opinions "suggest greater appreciation for the realities of tribal histories, aspirations, and struggles within a colonizing nation." And despite Ginsburg’s mixed record on tribal law, numerous prominent members of the indigenous communities across the country reacted to her death with heartfelt tributes. Jonathan Nez, the president of the Navajo Nation, called Ginsburg "a true champion of justice." She is an example of how over time, instead of digging in on our positions, we can listen, reflect, and grow.


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