Federal Indian law in the United States has historically relied on application of the Indian Canons of Construction (“Canons”). The courts have relied on these principles since 1832. However, their application has not been consistent. Indeed, the Canons are discretionary which has led to judicial avoidance. Yet, recent Supreme Court opinions demonstrate a resurgence of the Canons and a trend towards a textualist approach, both of which involve greater deference to tribal understandings. Ultimately, the opinions in United States v. Washington, Washington State Dept. of Licensing v. Cougar Den, Herrera v. Wyoming, and McGirt v. Oklahoma, indicate the Supreme Court’s intent to establish a strict framework for the application of the Canons to be used by all courts in this country going forward.



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