Tribal-State Relations in the Anglosphere, by Laura E. Evans
Indigenous politics is a perpetually-understudied topic (or set of topics) in political science. It’s somewhat less neglected in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand than it is in the U.S., but given the dominant position of American political science in the discipline, and the relatively low profile of the other three countries in comparative political science, the result is that there’s not a lot of attention. Moreover, most of the work is domestic to one or another of those countries (though there is a small-but-growing body of strong comparative work; see, e.g. my colleague Christa Scholtz’ book Negotiating Claims: The Emergence of Indigenous Land Claim Negotiation Policies in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States).
There’s also the difficulty that the field of “race and ethnic politics” is dominated by behavioral and attitudinal research– research about voters and opinion polls and interest group lobbying. All of that matters for indigenous politics, but so too do laws and institutions, in a way that isn’t as true for (e.g.) the paradigmatic REP cases of African-American politics and Latino politics. Indigenous peoples have self-government rights in a number of countries, and their political lives are substantially structured through the institutions of self-government, through relations between those institutions and the settler governments, and through legal contestation about those institutions’ powers. So studying indigenous politics has to be something like studying federalism in addition to being something like studying the voting patterns of African-Americans.
Add on top of that widespread ignorance about the basic facts of indigenous law and politics, and Evans was faced with an unenviable task for this article: provide an overview of basic information, and then a basic survey of literatures domestic and comparative, behavioral and institutional, about indigenous politics in four countries; and include throughout exhortations for more people to engage in research on indigenous politics at all. In a better state the world, the basic information would be common knowledge, the exhortations would be unnecessary, and the literatures would be so dense that there would be regular survey articles just about institutions of self-government, others about behavioral research and representation, and others about law and courts. But given where we are now, I’m happy to see Evans’ article included at all, and happy that she opted to try to do so many things in it, even if the result is that each is done pretty quickly.