An acquaintance was employed at a casino operated by an Indian tribe. He was fired for what would be a discriminatory reason if he were employed by a non-reservation employer.

My question is, which US laws apply on an Indian Reservation? Does social legislation like the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Act), ADA (Americans with Disability Act) or Voting Right Act or even the Social Security Act apply?

If a reservation exists within a state's boundaries, does that state's law apply?

Does it make a difference if a Tribe is operating the casino on non-tribal land?

I am abashed to realize that my sole frame of reference are old Toni Hillerman crime novels.

Thanks for any information shared.

  • 3
    What was the "discriminatory reason"? Which state? SCOTUS has made some of this clear, while some hasn't been determined.
    – user1873
    Jul 10, 2014 at 7:03
  • 3
    I would migrate this to Law.SE
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 13, 2018 at 22:23
  • 2
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is more appropriate in Law.com
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 13, 2018 at 22:24

1 Answer 1


Reservations exist in a weird quasi sovereign nation status. Indians living on a reservation are considered U.S. citizens and citizens of that particular tribe. Courts have generally held that due to this dual nature tribes have immunity from federal civil cases, most of the time, and are not subject to laws of States the reservation is on. The exception to immunity would be direct violations of the Indian Civil Rights Act, which is a subset of most the rights granted in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. In criminal cases, there is an established tribal court for minor crimes committed by Indians on tribal lands which is limited to sentences on one year in jail and $5,000 fine maximum. Most other crimes have federal jurisdiction, except Non-Indian on non-Indian crime in a reservation which is the State's responsibility.

See here, here and here for more details.

  • Thanks for the links. As I read them, as of 1968 the Bill of Rights applied to official tribe members and Indians on a reservation who were not enrolled tribe members; civil cases seem to be reserved to tribal courts as well as what we would call misdemeanors, crimes for which no more than 1 year in jail can be imposed. I didn't see anything that indicated the social legislation like EEOC or ADA or Social Security apply.
    – piquet
    Jul 10, 2014 at 17:43

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