What is the principle of Tribal Sovereignty? Does it mean that Native American tribes are not part of the United States?

1 Answer 1


Native American tribes are part of the United States, but have a special status in a lot of circumstances. Tribal/reservation land is under federal jurisdiction, but they have their own government for day to day operations. Tribes are recognized by the U.S. as independent, but they lack a real level of sovereignty from the federal government.

Native Americans have been considered U.S. citizens since 1924. The Indian Civil Rights Act (1968) granted many of the constitutional rights to those within Tribal jurisdiction that had previously been ruled to not apply.

Voting rights are still to some degree a contested topic, Native Americans have had the right to vote since the Voting Rights Act, but this has angered States with larger Native populations because those natives aren't under state jurisdiction.

Hunting and Fishing rights is the most controversial and significant difference, and tends to be the source of most anti-Native American sentiment. Native Americans are permitted to hunt/fish on Tribal lands or lands that were historically tribal lands with no permits or restrictions, this includes privately owned lands and use of modern commercial fishing practices.

Taxation is another big issue, but it is a much more complex issue that would require another answer to go into full detail. There is some level of taxation that those living on tribal land are exempted from.

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    Native Americans are also allowed to run casinos even when state law bans them. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_American_gaming Nov 19, 2018 at 17:13
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    @PaulJohnson that is part of not being under the jurisdiction of states. no state law applies to tribal lands.
    – Ryathal
    Nov 20, 2018 at 12:55
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    Yes, my point is that there is a bunch of things that come from not being under state law. You mentioned hunting/fishing and taxation, and I'm mentioning a third. Perhaps turning the last part of your answer into a list would be good. Nov 20, 2018 at 14:00
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    @PaulJohnson More accurately, Native American tribes are allowed to operate casinos in states that allow gambling, per the Supreme Court ruling in California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians. A specific issue in that case was that California law did not prohibit gambling because voters had approved a state lottery. Nov 23, 2018 at 18:35
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    @RockPaperLz-MaskitorCasket Some state laws do apply. Public Law 280 generally allows states to enforce criminal laws on tribal land. The question in Cabazon Band was whether California's efforts to control card games and bingo on reservations was enforcing criminal law or merely civil regulation. Since the state had legal poker and bingo, the courts found that California limits were civil regulation and not enforceable. Thus tribes across the U.S. were allowed to offer any sort of gambling that wasn't criminally prohibited by the state they were in. Congress later added federal regulations. Jan 16, 2022 at 19:37

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