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From The University of Minnesota Press
Navajo Courts and Navajo Common Law
A Tradition of Tribal Self-Governance
By Raymond D. Austin, Robert A. Williams , Jr.
296 pp. / 5.5 x 8.5 / 2009 / Indigenous Americas Series
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The Navajo Nation court system is the largest and most established tribal legal system in the world. Since the landmark 1959 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Williams v. Lee that

"Austin’s work is soon to be a classic. "
— American Indian Quarterly

"Justice Austin, always a trailblazer, is one of the main architects of Navajo common law. Now he has given us a comprehensive explanation of his nation's common law in all its power, fairness, and beauty. This book should be read by people the world over who believe in searching out the authenticity of law and society in its truest and most profound meanings."
— Charles Wilkinson, author of Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations

"Navajo Courts and Navajo Common Law: A Tradition of Tribal Self-Governance is a groundbreaking in-depth treatment of a subject deserving more attention. "
— The Law and Politics Book Review

"The book is engaging, insightful, and thought provoking, an important contribution to the law and the academy. "
— Wicazo Sa Review

"The lay readers will be interested to read of the sound logic and the deep communal traditions that enrich Navajo justice today and will gain a deep appreciation of the signal values of harmony, peace, solidarity, and kinship in the advancement of fair outcomes in dispute resolution. That said, the book’s chief contribution will be at the level of advanced legal studies. "
— Library Journal
affirmed tribal court authority over reservation-based claims, the Navajo Nation has been at the vanguard of a far-reaching, transformative jurisprudential movement among Indian tribes in North America and indigenous peoples around the world to retrieve and use traditional values to address contemporary legal issues.

A justice on the Navajo Nation Supreme Court for sixteen years, Justice Raymond D. Austin has been deeply involved in the movement to develop tribal courts and tribal law as effective means of modern self-government. He has written foundational opinions that have established Navajo common law and, throughout his legal career, has recognized the benefit of tribal customs and traditions as tools of restorative justice.

In Navajo Courts and Navajo Common Law, Justice Austin considers the history and implications of how the Navajo Nation courts apply foundational Navajo doctrines to modern legal issues. He explains key Navajo foundational concepts like Hozho (harmony), K'e (peacefulness and solidarity), and K'ei (kinship) both within the Navajo cultural context and, using the case method of legal analysis, as they are adapted and applied by Navajo judges in virtually every important area of legal life in the tribe.

In addition to detailed case studies, Justice Austin provides a broad view of tribal law, documenting the development of tribal courts as important institutions of indigenous self-governance and outlining how other indigenous peoples, both in North America and elsewhere around the world, can draw on traditional precepts to achieve self-determination and self-government, solve community problems, and control their own futures.

About Raymond D. Austin

Justice Raymond D. Austin is the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program's Distinguished Jurist in Residence at the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona. A member of the Arizona and Utah state bars and the Navajo Nation Bar Association, he served on the Navajo Nation Supreme Court from 1985 to 2001. Justice Austin is Dine from the Navajo Nation.

About Robert A. Williams , Jr.

Robert A. Williams, Jr. is professor of law and American Indian studies at the James E. Rogers College of Law, University of Arizona. A member of the Lumbee Indian Tribe, he is author of The American Indian in Western Legal Thought: The Discourses of Conquest and coauthor of Federal Indian Law.