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Colonialism: Then and Now

Colonization refers to any kind of external control of land, its components, and its inhabitants by a central system of power. In Indian Country, colonization is ongoing with persistent colonial policies that curtail meaningful tribal sovereignty and economic freedom in reservation communities.

Tribal Jurisdiction
Jurisdiction, a question of territory and authority, is the power to make rules and decisions about matters depending on the people, place, and resources in question.

Tribal Lands
Tribal lands are fee and trust lands owned by a tribe, and all lands over which a tribe has authority.

Tribal Sovereignty
Tribal sovereignty is the right for tribes to make their own laws and be governed by them, as well as have authority over their people and territory. It predates the establishment of the Federal government and the U.S. Constitution.

Trust Land
Trust land is property held by one party for the benefit of another party. In this context, land is owned either by an individual Indian or a tribe, the title to which is held in trust by the federal government.

A ward is a person who is legally considered incapable of managing his or her affairs and over whom a guardian is appointed. A ward may retain legal title to his or her land, but he or she may not sign any contracts regarding the property.

For a more complete glossary of terms, check out the Indian Land Tenure Foundation’s Land Tenure Glossary.

Ledger Art
Ledger art is an example of adaptation. When buffalo hides provided the primary source of material for clothing, teepees, and household goods, Plains Indian adorned them with colorful art that told stories and recorded Plains Indian history. However, after the buffalo were nearly hunted to extinction and tribes were forced to abandon their nomadic ways, Plains Indians lacked a medium for expressing their art and telling their stories. They adapted by using ledger books discarded by federal Indian agents and trading companies.

One story of how ledger art got its start is that a Native American warrior, seeking to feed his starving family, was offered a cow by the local community. Too proud to accept the charity, the hungry man refused the food unless he worked or traded for it. Using a discarded ledger book, he began drawing on the pages and selling the drawings for a quarter to raise money to pay for the cow.