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ERIC Number: EJ813088
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 23
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0095-182X
Oaths of Office in Tribal Constitutions: Swearing Allegiance, but to Whom?
Wilkins, David E.; Lightfoot, Sheryl
American Indian Quarterly, v32 n4 p389-411 Fall 2008
No comprehensive analysis of tribal constitutions has ever been conducted, so this project aims to begin filling this significant gap in American, constitutional, and comparative politics research. In this study, the authors examine only one small but significant element of Native constitutions: oaths of office for incoming tribal government officials. The authors examine how the wording of tribal constitutions, particularly the oaths of office specified in tribal constitutions, is reflective of tribal self-determination. Are oaths of office in tribal constitutions an imposed colonial practice? Were oaths of office part of a boilerplate Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (IRA) constitution that was said to have been imposed upon tribes during the IRA era? Or can the wording of oaths of office actually reflect a strong sense of tribal self-determination? In light of these research questions, three working hypotheses pertaining to oaths of office in tribal constitutions guide this study: (1) If tribes voted to come under the provisions of the IRA, then the oaths of office for tribal officials will tend to reflect a higher degree of deference and loyalty to the federal, though not the state, government as a sign of relief and appreciation at the opportunity to begin the process of rebuilding their nations; (2) If tribes wrote constitutions well before the IRA, then various factors (e.g., the presence of Christian missionaries; the activities of students returned from boarding schools; tribal elites anxious to forge stronger governments in order to be more effective in dealing with state, corporate, and federal officials) will determine to whom tribal officials swear allegiance; and (3) If tribes adopted constitutions during the Indian Self-Determination era of the 1970s and beyond, then their oaths of office will reflect a surging sense of self-governance, autonomy, and a purposeful distance from the federal and especially the state governments. The authors first examine the history of oaths of office and then analyze the content of oaths of office in various types of tribal nation constitutions to test the above hypotheses on IRA and non-IRA constitutions. (Contains 1 figure, 1 table and 29 notes.)
University of Nebraska Press. 1111 Lincoln Mall, Lincoln, NE 68588-0630. Tel: 800-755-1105; Fax: 800-526-2617; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: Indian Reorganization Act 1934