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A unique body of federal actions rests in near silence within the shadowy margins of all other U.S. public law. The reason is simple. It consists of laws that specifically apply to just one group of Americans: members of American Indian tribes. As such, the laws apply most directly to less than 1.5% of our nation’s citizenry, yet they also affect other Americans in important but less obvious ways. These tribe-focused public laws continue to frame New Millennium relationships between American Indian tribes and their state and federal counterparts.

CONGRESS WHISPERS, RESERVATION NATIONS ENDURE presents a legislative sample for students and American history buff s to explore. Each piece of legislation was enacted by Congress between 1885 and 1990. This collection offers a civics lesson: it reveals the time-honored pageantry of congressional proceedings through public laws that proved important to the development of several western states, many of the nation’s most beloved national parks, and many of today’s American Indian reservations. Taken together, the votes cast during about one month of congressional law-making left an indelible mark upon the American psyche—and upon the American landscape.

At the same time, this collection of laws also offers hope. It hints at a prevailing decency within Congress, a characteristic often evident during this century-long timeline, as lawmakers demonstrated a capacity to learn from their mistakes. Whenever Congress chose to take corrective action, our nation stepped closer to its ideals of Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness.

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