Tribal Sovereignty

“The Congress shall have power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes…”

Article I, Section 8, United States Constitution

Prior to the formation of the Unites States, foreign nations and the colonies recognized the sovereign governmental status of Indian tribes. This was eventually confirmed in the U.S. Constitution. Like state governments and foreign governments, Indian tribes have the inherent sovereign power to govern their people and their lands.

Through treaties, Indian tribes transferred legal rights to millions of acres of tribal lands throughout the United States in exchange for guarantees that the federal government would protect the tribes’ right to govern their own people, their homelands and preserve their ancient ways of life. These treaties between the United States and Indian tribes represent solemn commitments between governments. Numerous decisions dating back to the earliest days of the U.S. Supreme Court consistently affirm the rule of law that Indian tribes retain their governmental status and powers unless expressly limited by treaty or by federal law.

This federal recognition of a tribe’s sovereignty confirms the government-to-government relationship with the United States and acknowledges the sovereign right of a tribe to govern itself as it had before European immigration. Federally recognized tribes like the Pokagon Band have access to federal assistance, contracting and grant opportunities, just as state and local governments do. Through these programs, tribal governments may receive funds that they can then use to provide such community services as health clinics and housing assistance.

The Pokagon Band places great value on its work with state and local units of government to establish effective partnerships on key initiatives and to coordinate programs that benefit native and non-native communities alike. The Pokagon Band and other Indian tribes have pursued self-determination in an effort to overcome the effects of assimilation and poverty that have plagued Indian communities for nearly two centuries.