A Lawyer in Indian Country

A Memoir

Alvin J. Ziontz
Foreword by Charles Wilkinson

  • Published: 2009. Paperback 2012
  • Subject Listing: Biography, Autobiography, and Memoir; Native American and Indigenous Studies; Law
  • Bibliographic information: 328 pp., 31 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

In his memoir, Alvin Ziontz reflects on his more than thirty years representing Indian tribes, from a time when Indian law was little known through landmark battles that upheld tribal sovereignty. He discusses the growth and maturation of tribal government and the underlying tensions between Indian society and the non-Indian world. A Lawyer in Indian Country presents vignettes of reservation life and recounts some of the memorable legal cases that illustrate the challenges faced by individual Indians and tribes.

As the senior attorney arguing U.S. v. Washington, Ziontz was a party to the historic 1974 Boldt decision that affirmed the Pacific Northwest tribes' treaty fishing rights, with ramifications for tribal rights nationwide. His work took him to reservations in Montana, Wyoming, and Minnesota, as well as Washington and Alaska, and he describes not only the work of a tribal attorney but also his personal entry into the life of Indian country.

Ziontz continued to fight for tribal rights into the late 1990s, as the Makah tribe of Washington sought to resume its traditional whale hunts. Throughout his book, Ziontz traces his own path through this public history - one man's pursuit of a life built around the principles of integrity and justice.

"An important and compelling story of one man's remarkable career representing Indian tribes during the golden age of the modern Indian rights movement."
-Robert T. Anderson, University of Washington School of Law

"Ziontz's memoir draws us into the inner world of tribal and legal strategy that shaped one of the most important social movements of the twentieth century-the struggle of Native Americans to reclaim their resources and sovereignty. Lawyers, scholars, and activists can all learn from his revealing account of partnership between a developing Indian lawyer and his tribal clients."
-Carole Goldberg, Distinguished Professor of Law, UCLA

"As one who was born to and lived where Al Ziontz went-Indian Country-I am deeply grateful for this memoir. A Lawyer in Indian Country is the story of a gifted attorney on the frontlines of Native legal reform who also brought great conscience to his work. As a Southern Cheyenne, I value both immensely, but in the end it is his defining and transcendent empathy and humanity regarding Native America that matter to me most."
-W. Richard West, Jr., Founding Director and Director Emeritus, National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution

Foreword by Charles Wilkinson
1. The Road to Neah Bay
2. The Road to Neah Bay Begins in Chicago
3. The University of Chicago, the Army, and Seattle
4. Becoming a Lawyer
5. Seven Years of Lawyering in West Seattle
6. Creating a Law Firm
7. Indian Fishing Rights: Joining the Struggle
8. The Makahs
9. Recovering Lost Property: Ozette, Tatoosh, and Waadah
10. The Lummi Tribe
11. Indian Fishing Rights: Eighty Years of Suppression, Twenty Years of Confrontation
12. The Big Bang: U.S. v. Washington Begins
13. U.S. v. Washington: The Trial
14. U.S. v. Washington: Closing Arguments and Judge Boldt's Decision
15. The U.S. Supreme Court Has the Last Word: Consequences of the Boldt Decision
16. The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation
17. The Northern Cheyennes Fight Strip-Mining
18. The Northern Cheyennes and the Hollowbreast Case
19. The Oliphant Case: A Setback for Tribal Government
20. Writing about the Indian Civil Rights Act
21. Leaving Law for Academia
22. A Firm of Tribal Attorneys
23. Representing Fishermen of the Alaska Peninsula
24. The Mille Lacs Band of Chippewas
25. The Wanda Boswell Case
26. The Northern Arapaho Tribe
27. Photographing the Northern Cheyennes
28. The Makah Whale Hunt
29. A Life in Being
Selected Bibliography

"Ziontz infuses wit and humor into his narrative, yet the heartbreak and frustration surrounding Indian rights is palpable. . . . A Lawyer in Indian Country is a must read for anyone interested in Native-white relations, Native rights, of Pacific Northwest history. Simply put, Ziontz provides a riveting account of struggle and success and goes beyond court documents and affidavits to reveal the people behind the cases, and the man behind the people."
-Pacific Northwest Quarterly

"A Lawyer in Indian Country is a compelling legal and personal story... Readers will find this richly textured memoir an inspiring story, with the author deserving high praise for advancing the constitutional rights of American Indians."
-The Oregon Quarterly