Document Type


Publication Date



Objective. Like many politically disadvantaged groups, American Indian interests have turned to the courts when they lack access or clout in the electoral process. Unlike many ocher disadvantaged groups, the litigation activities of American Indian interests have failed to garner much scholarly attention. The purpose of this research is to examine how American Indian interests fared before the Burger Court (1969-85 October terms). Methods. The 63 full opinion cases regarding issues critical to American Indian interests were identified by examining the United States Reports. Each case was coded as whether or not the Court decided in favor of the party advancing American Indian interests. Results. American Indian interests won over one-half of the cases decided by the Burger Court during the 1969-85 terms. Additionally, the appellant status of the party advancing American Indian interests and the issue area being litigated were important determinants in the direction of the Burger Court's decisions. Conclusions. While American Indian interests won more cases than they lost during the 1969-85 terms, the Burger Court's decisions did not result in a coherent body of law.


University of Texas Press

Publication Information

Social Science Quarterly