OU Law launches online collection of legal papers underlying Supreme Court decision in Johnson v. M'Intosh

October 7, 2011 | By Evie Holzer

WASHINGTON, D.C. – University of Oklahoma Law Professor Lindsay Robertson announced today the launch of an extensive online collection of historical documents related to the foundational Supreme Court decision divesting Native Americans of their ownership interest in the North American continent. The announcement was made as part of Robertson’s presentation at a symposium at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian discussing the United States courts’ use of history to shape Native law jurisprudence.

The “United Illinois and Wabash Land Companies Collection” consists of 263 original manuscripts, five hand-drawn maps and seven published documents related to the Companies’ efforts to acquire title to Indian lands during the period 1775 to 1823. These efforts culminated in the Supreme Court’s landmark 1823 decision in Johnson v. M’Intosh divesting Native Americans of title to their lands.

The papers informed Robertson's award-winning book, Conquest by Law: How the Discovery of America Dispossessed Indigenous Peoples of Their Lands (Oxford University Press, 2005). Jasper Brinton, great-great-great grandson of John Hill Brinton who served as the companies’ secretary from 1805 to 1823, entrusted the papers to the Donald E. Pray Law Library, which digitized them to make them available to scholars worldwide.

“It gives us living Brintons great pleasure to know that, after all these years, our grandfather’s interest and care devoted to the Illinois and Wabash documents have proven instrumental and useful toward clarifying the inalienable rights of Native Americans,” Brinton said. “Our thanks and gratitude to Lindsay G. Robertson, who unearthed and understood the historical significance these papers held, and continue to hold, for all those involved in the course of fairness and justice.”

The public may access the collection online through the OU Law Digital Collections at http://digital.libraries.ou.edu/IWLC/.


For Immediate Release: Oct. 7, 2011
Media Contact: Evie Holzer, eholzer@ou.edu, (405) 831-0709

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