What are Native American Nations?

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  • Written By: Brandon 'Bujio' Roberts
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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Native American Nations are domestic dependent nations within the boundaries of the United States. Within their boundaries, tribal governments are allowed to rule according to their traditions and customs with minimal interference from the federal and state governments. Native American Nations are afforded more governmental independence than any state, but they are not considered proper nations separate from the U.S. Members of Native American Nations are subject to many of the rules and regulations to which non-tribal citizens must adhere, though there is a greater amount of lenience on certain issues pertaining to tribal customs, particularly within the boundaries of their tribal lands.


Native American Nations have their own laws and court systems and are guaranteed the right to govern themselves except when the U.S. Congress chooses to limit their powers of authority. The tribal governments generally are given full jurisdiction over the citizens of their particular circle, but their lack of authority over non-tribal individuals who commit offenses in their lands has proved to be a point of contention between the tribal governments and federal and state officials. Another issue of contention between the Native American Nations and the government is their relationship with the state. There is a gray area where it remains unclear how much jurisdiction a given state can have over a tribal nation within its boundaries. The Native American Nations have always made their treaties with the federal government, but there have been incidents when states have limited the tribal provisions afforded them by these treaties.

Despite the sometimes ambiguous nature of tribal sovereignty, the Native American Nations have thrived within their borders. There are more than 500 Native American tribes and more than 200 tribal languages spoken in the continental U.S. These tribes are tracked, listed and archived by the Office of the Federal Register, and an up-to-date copy of the Federal Register is kept in the Library of Congress.

There are many Native American Nations throughout various regions across the U.S., virtually from coast to coast. Some of these Native American lands allow visitors to come and tour their sites, purchase souvenirs and experience a little bit of the lifestyle that their ancestors lived. Other tribal lands are closed, and trespassing is strictly forbidden. Tourists are encouraged to check with the specific location before planning a trip to any of the Native American Nations.


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