The Omaha Tribe of Nebraska has borne more than its fair share of the burden created by the federal government’s wildly vacillating Indian policy. Mark R. Scherer’s Imperfect Victories provides a detailed examination of the Omahas’ tenacious efforts to overcome the damaging effects of shifting directions in federal policy during the last fifty years. The Omahas’ struggles are particularly significant because the tribe often bore the initial impact of experimental legislation that would later be implemented nationally.
Scherer details the disastrous consequences of postwar federal legislation that transferred control over Indian affairs to state authorities as a precursor to the wholesale termination of Indian tribalism. The legislation brought jurisdictional turmoil to the Omaha reservation and placed the Omahas in chronic conflict with local law enforcement agencies. As the tribe fought to become the first Indian group in the nation to escape the effects of that law through retrocession, they waged equally notable struggles for the redress of past wrongs with the Indian Claims Commission and in the federal courts. Scherer demonstrates that the Omahas’ successes in those campaigns have been at best imperfect victories, coming only after years of hardship and failing to eliminate many underlying tensions and problems.
Mark R. Scherer is an adjunct instructor of history at the University of Nebraska, an instructor of law at the College of Saint Mary, and a practicing attorney.
Honorable Mention for the 2000 Benjamin F. Shambaugh Award, sponsored by the State Historical Society of Iowa