Bailey Brown


Architectural Arbitration: The Lore of Land, Law, and Home

Advised by Lisa Haber-Thomson

Architects who appropriate ancient “primitive” forms and construction draw on a foundation of “indigeneity” that appears to overlap with, but fundamentally contradict, the use of this concept by tribal nations. Architects privilege aesthetic symbolism or “primitive” building techniques as defining indigenous architecture. Tribal nations, however, articulate their own architecture as reflective of political status and cultural dynamism in the present. 

The law’s understanding of “indigeneity” illustrates conflicting foundational notions of identity. This thesis explores the lore of indigeneity as the foundation of Tribal Law. I draw examples from legal cases that entangle legal rights to land, native culture, architecture, and citizenship with folklore of essentialist indigenous identities.

This thesis explores the legal lore of land and home through the case of the Cherokee Nation because of the tribe’s lineage of land dispossessions and impact on American Indian Law as well as the tribe’s legal prominence in matters of sovereignty, land, and nationhood and domestic architecture that questions essentialist identities. I examine contexts of indigeneity necessary to understanding legal land conflicts and tribal law, including territory, citizenship, and sovereignty that confronts essentialist lore. Complications between lore and law are explored in a close analysis of five legal cases: the first three are known collectively as the Marshall Trilogy, the fourth, “The Dawes Act,” and the last—McGirt v. Oklahoma. Architecture arbitrates these legal, intellectual, and material foundations to affirm or contest the lore of land, law, and home.

A color photo of a Cherokee Nation Gift Shop viewed from across a highway and showing the parking lot and trees in front of green low masonry buildings.