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Native America, Discovered and Conquered: Thomas Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, and Manifest Destiny Paperback – July 1, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Bison Books (July 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803215983
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803215986
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #823,225 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Robert J. Miller's book examines the legal history of the 'doctrine of discovery,' the Lewis and Clark expedition, and U.S. claims to the Pacific Northwest. After a short introduction that defines the doctrine of discovery, he develops his argument in three stages. First, he outlines the history of discovery as articulated in medieval and early modern Europe and in colonial America and the early national United States. Next, he focuses on Thomas Jefferson, marshalling voluminous documentary evidence to detail Jefferson's views of U.S. government authority over Indians and Indian territory; he discusses the contradiction between Jefferson's idealistic vision of Indians and his actions, which promoted aggressive acquisition of Indian lands and removal or outright extermination of Indians. Finally, the author analyzes the Lewis and Clark expedition as a manifestation of discovery and systematically describes how discovery was applied to the Oregon country between 1803 and 1855. At the end of the book, Miller briefly sketches out the subsequent application of the discovery doctrine in U.S. Indian law through 2005 and explains the ramifications of the book's findings."—American Historical Review
(American Historical Review)

"Miller's book represents the most comprehensive and thoughtful analysis of the American version of the Doctrine of Discovery to date, its role in the voyages of Lewis & Clark, and its continuing importance in the field of federal Indian Law today."
(Alexander Tallchief Skibine)

"Professor Miller's treatment of the Doctrine of Discovery shows us that we still have much to learn about how we came to legitimize our jurisdiction over this continent. He illustrates the dense interlacing of law, ideology, and politics at work in the making of the "New World." Everyone who is interested in Indian Law and the West will have to read this book."
(Gerald Torres)

"Through its focus on the Doctrine of Discovery, Miller's book offers fascinating new insights into Jefferson's Indian policy, the significance of the Lewis & Clark expedition, and the origins of Manifest Destiny ideology in 19th- century America. Miller forces readers to confront the raw assertion of colonial power embodied in the Doctrine of Discovery, and its consistent deployment by the United States in the guise of law."—Carole Goldberg, author of American Indian Law
(Carole Goldberg)

"This is an important book that every judge, lawyer and anyone else concerned about questions of racial justice in America should read."
(Robert Williams)

“Miller carefully traces the racist, greedy religiosity of Manifest Destiny . . . used to seize Indian land, especially in Oregon, showing it also as the basis for laws applied to Native Americans that appallingly continue in effect into the present. A must read.”—B. A. Mann, Choice

“To say this book is required reading for those wishing to understand American history is an understatement. Miller has provided an opportunity for readers with varying interests from Constitutional law professor to tribal advocate to public lands users of all types to gain valuable insight into the interconnected web of religion, conquest, human rights, land and equity. . . . This is an important time for this book to be published.”—Lincoln (NE) Journal Star
(Lincoln Journal Star)

About the Author

Robert J. Miller is a professor at the Lewis and Clark Law School and chief justice of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde in Oregon and a citizen of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma.
Elizabeth Furse is a former Oregon congresswoman and former director of the Institute for Tribal Government, Hatfield School, at Portland State University.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Rose City Reader on March 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
In Native America Discovered and Conquered, law professor Robert J. Miller examines how the international law concept now referred to as the "Doctrine of Discovery" applied to America's westward expansion. Miller explains how the principles of the doctrine - developed by Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the 1400s and formally adopted in America in the 1823 Supreme Court case of Johnson v. M'Intosh - influenced Thomas Jefferson's expansionist plans, delineated Lewis and Clark's duties, and grew into the policy of Manifest Destiny.

This book offers a fresh look at these common chapters in American history by viewing them through the lens of the Doctrine of Discovery, which Miller describes "in a nutshell" as the idea that when a European, Christian nation "discovered" new lands, the European - later American - nation automatically acquired sovereign and property rights in the new land, subject only to the native peoples' right to occupy and use the land. When the natives stopped using or wanted to sell the land, they had to sell it to the European or American "conquering" nation and to no other.

Miller sticks to his theme well, tying many loose threads of history into his theory. Native America Discovered and Conquered provides a necessary foundation for understanding the laws and actions that created the modern legal system controlling American Indians today.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By HWBATT on April 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is an important book. I first commented on the hardback when it came out, but I've since cited it in many pieces of my own scholarship. It is well written, well organized, and well documented. So I want to endorse the paper back edition too. It should influence a number of fields - history, economics, and law most of all. Professor Miller's thesis is that a very well-developed and refined legal doctrine - the Doctrine of Discovery - provided the grounding for the seizure and settlement of the North American continent by European nations. However ethnocentric, racist and self-serving it may have been, it adequately served as justification for what was little more than a crude land-grab. Despite its moral and widespread appeal to nationalists, financiers, and settlers, it would never pass muster today. But, for all the harm and pain it wrought, it was then allied with historical forces that made it unstoppable and inexorable. Euro-Americans must today live with this history, however unpalatable.

Professor Miller is helped by his willingness to be interdisciplinary in his exploration. He himself is an Associate Professor at the Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, as well as being Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals for the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon. As a citizen of the Eastern Shawnee tribe of Oklahoma, he has the ability to step outside the Eurocentric paradigm of legal reasoning on which so many of our notions of real property rest. But he also relies on a rich vein of historical literature with which he treats in a commendable way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tom King on February 8, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I hate to admit it, but in fifty-plus years working with tribes and their histories, it had never quite occurred to me that America's Founding Fathers had a legal theory to justify their actions. Miller's clear and persuasive explanation of the Discovery Doctrine and its continuing influence on U.S. policy is fascinating and enlightening. He has a tendency to beat the subject to death (How many times do we have to be told that Jefferson displayed a clear understanding of Discovery?), but that's a minor quibble. The facility with which the nation's leaders deployed an intellectually (never mind morally) vacuous doctrine to legitimize dispossessing the indigenous nations of North America is quite breathtaking, and Miller tells the story well, leaving it to the reader to draw the obvious but seldom-considered conclusions.
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