Securing Tribal Sovereignty: A Theory for Overturning Lone Wolf

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2002


The aspect of Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock that I want to explore in this essay I will label "congressional unilateralism." By this I mean both the power of Congress to abridge or terminate tribal sovereignty, and also the power to do so in the face of a prior treaty commitment not to change governing relations without the consent of the tribe. Lone Wolf remains the Supreme Court's strongest statement upholding congressional unilateralism. I propose a theory for curbing Congress's plenary power, at least as it pertains to constitutive governing arrangements. Specifically, I suggest that "mutual consent" provisions in Indian- United States agreements ought to be viewed as binding, preventing unilateral repeal of treaty commitments by federal statute. If this is right, then Lone Wolf is wrong.

Publication Citation

38 Tulsa L. Rev. 57 (2002)