Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968
Great Seal of the United States
Long titleAn Act to prescribe penalties for certain acts of violence or intimidation, and for other purposes.
Acronyms (colloquial)ICRA
Enacted bythe 90th United States Congress
EffectiveApril 11, 1968
Public law90-284
Statutes at Large82 Stat. 73 aka 82 Stat. 77
Titles amended25 U.S.C.: Indians
U.S.C. sections created
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the House as H.R. 2516 by Emanuel Celler (DNY) on June 29, 1967
  • Committee consideration by House Judiciary
  • Passed the House on August 16, 1967 (327-93)
  • Passed the Senate on March 11, 1968 (71-20) with amendment
  • House agreed to Senate amendment on April 10, 1968 (Agreed, in lieu of H.Res. 1100)
  • Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on April 11, 1968

Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 applies to the Indian tribes of the United States and makes many, but not all, of the guarantees of the Bill of Rights applicable within the federally recognized tribes.[1] The Act appears today in Title 25, sections 1301 to 1303 of the United States Code.

The H.R. 2516 legislation was passed by the 90th U.S. Congressional session and endorsed by the 36th President of the United States Lyndon Johnson on April 11, 1968.[2]

Events before passage of ICRA[edit]

The US Supreme Court had made clear that tribal internal affairs concerning tribal members' individual rights were not covered by the Fifth Amendment to the US constitution. However, the tribes were ultimately subjected to the power of Congress and the Constitution.[3] The court case Talton v. Mayes helped establish the principles. There were other court cases over the following years to continue the thoughts "that tribes were not arms of the federal government when punishing tribal members for criminal acts and that Indian tribes were exempt from many of the constitutional protections governing the actions of state and federal governments".[3]

Later, in the 1960s, Congress held a series of hearings on the subject of the authority of tribal governments. These hearings told about the abuses that many tribal members had endured from the "sometimes corrupt, incompetent, or tyrannical tribal officials". In response, the Indian Civil Rights Act was enacted.[3]

Provisions of the Indian Civil Rights Act[edit]

No Indian tribe in exercising powers of self-government shall—

  1. make or enforce any law prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition for a redress of grievances;
  2. violate the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable search and seizures, nor issue warrants, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the person or thing to be seized;
  3. subject any person for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy;
  4. compel any person in any criminal case to be a witness against himself;
  5. take any private property for a public use without just compensation;
  6. deny to any person in a criminal proceeding the right to a speedy and public trial, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, to be confronted with the witnesses against him, to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and at his own expense to have the assistance of counsel for his defense;
  7. require excessive bail, impose excessive fines, inflict cruel and unusual punishments, and in no event impose for conviction of any one offense any penalty or punishment greater than imprisonment for a term of one year and a fine of $5,000, or both;
  8. deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of its laws or deprive any person of liberty or property without due process of law;
  9. pass any bill of attainder or ex post facto law; or
  10. deny to any person accused of an offense punishable by imprisonment the right, upon request, to a trial by jury of not less than six persons.[4]

According to the US Government Publishing Office, in "imprisonment for a term of one year and a fine of $5,000, or both" in paragraph 7, "and" should probably be "or".[5]

The act also requires tribal courts to afford due process and other civil liberties. Also, Native American courts try to provide a setting similar to that of a US courtroom, which is familiar to lawyers.[6] That aided the attorneys, and it helped divert non-Indian ridicule and established the view that tribal courts were legitimate courts. Tribal courts adopted rules of evidence, pleading, and other requirements similar to those in state and federal courts.[6]

The ICRA incorporated many constitutional protections but it modified others or did not include them at all. "The law did not impose the establishment clause, the guarantee of a republican form of government, the requirement of a separation of church and state, the right to a jury trial in civil cases, or the right of indigents to appointed counsel in criminal cases."[3] The provisions were excluded because the government recognized the different political and cultural status of the tribes.

Even though the federal government respected their individuality in this respect, the establishment of the ICRA caused the tribal governments to "mirror" modern American courts and procedures.[3]

The impact of ICRA was greatly limited by the Supreme Court by the Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez court case (1978). Martinez involved a request to stop denying tribal membership to those children born to female (not male) tribal members who married outside of the tribe. The mother who brought the case pleaded that the discrimination against her child was solely based on sex, which violated the ICRA. The courts decided that "tribal common-law sovereign immunity prevented a suit against the tribe."[3] Martinez ultimately strengthened tribal self-determination by further proving that generally, the federal government played no enforcement role over the tribal governments.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robert J. McCarthy, "Civil Rights in Tribal Courts; The Indian Bill of Rights at 30 Years," 34 IDAHO LAW REVIEW 465 (1998).
  2. ^ Peters, Gerhard; Woolley, John T. "Lyndon B. Johnson: "Remarks Upon Signing the Civil Rights Act.," April 11, 1968". The American Presidency Project. University of California - Santa Barbara.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Indian Civil Rights Act." US History Encyclopedia. © 2006 through a partnership of Answers Corporation.
  4. ^ Canby Jr., William C. American Indian Law in a Nutshell. St. Paul: West Publishing Co., 2004 pg. 354–355
  5. ^ "25 U.S.C. 15 - Constitutional Rights of Indians". United States Government Publishing Office. Retrieved July 28, 2018.
  6. ^ a b Wilkinson, Charles. Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations. Boston: W. W. Norton & Company, Incorporated, 2006. pg. 290.
  7. ^ Murphy, Paul L. Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez.