American Indian History on Trial


Historical Expertise in Tribal Litigation

Drawing from forty-five years of experience, E. Richard Hart elucidates the use of history as expert testimony in American Indian tribal litigation. Such lawsuits deal with aboriginal territory; hunting, fishing, and plant gathering rights; reservation boundaries; water rights; federal recognition; and other questions that have a historical basis. The methodology necessary to assemble successful expert testimony for tribes is complex and demanding and the legal cases have serious implications for many thousands of people, perhaps for generations.

Hart, a historian who has testified in cases that have resulted in roughly a billion dollars in judgments, uses specific cases to explain at length what kind of historical research and documentation is necessary for tribes seeking to protect and claim their rights under United States law. He demonstrates the legal questions that Native Americans face by exploring the cultural history and legal struggles of six Indian nations. He recounts how these were addressed by expert testimony grounded in thorough historical understanding, research, and argumentation. The case studies focus on the Wenatchi, Coeur d’Alene, Hualapai, Amah Mutsun, Klamath, and Zuni peoples but address issues relevant to many American tribes. 

E. Richard Hart provides historical, ethnohistorical, and environmental historical services and expert testimony for North American tribes. The former executive director of the Institute of the North American West, he has organized a number of influential conferences, authored or edited ten books, and published numerous articles and essays. 

Praise and Reviews:
“A truly remarkable addition to the field of literature regarding the first inhabitants. It could very well be a path-breaking book for the field of expert witness training.”
—Sandra K. Mathews, author of American Indians of the Early West 

“A significant contribution. The author provides insights that are perceptive and thought provoking for both academics and legal personnel. This is the kind of valuable information that can only be gleaned from years of experience.”
—R. David Edmunds, author of The Fox Wars: The Mesquakie Challenge to New France

“A great read for lawyers and those interested in legal proceedings. Hart’s description of his adventures as an expert witness demonstrates a deep understanding of how experts assist courts and administrative agencies to understand and contextualize complicated historical facts and how to place them into an appropriate legal matrix. His account is very enlightening and useful.”
—Michael Homer, managing partner at the law firm of Suitter Axland, and author of Joseph’s Temples