RE-EVALUATING TRIBAL CUSTOMS OF LAND USE RIGHTS

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Indigenous peoples developed sustainable land tenure systems over countless generations, but these customary systems of rights are barely used by American Indian tribes today. Would increasing formal recognition of these traditional customs be desirable for tribes in a modern context? This Comment examines one traditional form of indigenous land tenure—the use right—and argues that those tribes that historically recognized use rights in land might benefit from increased reliance on these traditional customs. The Comment argues that in the tribal context, use rights can potentially be just as economically efficient, if not more so, than the Anglo-American system of unqualified, absolute ownership in land. The Comment also argues that tribal customs of land use rights may help preserve Indian cultural identity by cultivating core, non-economic values of tribal peoples. The Comment concludes by addressing some of the challenges tribes will likely face in attempting to more broadly rely on their customs of land use rights in the new millennium, while also remarking on some current and important opportunities for the re-integration of tribal customs in tribal land law.

Published in the UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO LAW REVIEW, vol. 82, at 551-594 (2011); also in SOVEREIGNTY SYMPOSIUM XXIV COMPENDIUM OF MATERIALS, at VII-1 (June 2011).

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