Legal Question in Native American Law in California

Federal Laws vs. Indian Reservation Laws

Do U.S. Federal Laws supercede American Indian Laws? In other words, can American Indians do anything they want provided their actions are done within their reservation?


Asked on 6/09/02, 8:37 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Charles Aspinwall Charles S. Aspinwall, J.D., LLC

Re: Federal Laws vs. Indian Reservation Laws

There exists an uncomfortable dual status on indian land - the tribe has autonomy in some areas and the federal government reserves the right to control certain activities under the "trust" status of the tribes under federal law.

Murder on indian land, for instance, is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government, and one accused of this crime will be taken to federal court. The tribal courts do not have jurisdiction.

Driving privileges, however, and lesser crimes are usually under the jurisiction of the tribal courts, and violations are prosecuted there.

Indians have no immunity by virtue of the acts they commit on the res any more than a non-indian would. They are subject to the same federal laws as anyone else, in addition to tribal laws where applicable.

No, they can't do "anything they like" without paying the consequences either to the federal system or the tribal court.

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Answered on 6/10/02, 1:05 pm

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