Each of the 573 federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States has its own unique culture and history, but they all share one common denominator: They are sovereign nations. To those unfamiliar with the unique relationship between the federal government and tribes, inherent in tribal sovereignty is the power to make laws and set policies governing tribal lands and resources, such as economic development, housing, healthcare, education and cultural preservation.
This is a core principle of how tribes live, operate and govern themselves, but sadly, not everyone respects tribal sovereignty, despite centuries of U.S. Supreme Court and lower court precedent recognizing these powers. Most recently, in a major case for tribal economies, the principle of tribal sovereignty was reaffirmed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals , which demonstrated in its ruling the important role that tribal self-determination plays in economic development throughout Indian Country.
Key in the Fourth Circuit’s ruling is the finding that tribes, as sovereign nations, can create economic arms overseen by tribal laws and regulatory bodies. Per legal precedent, these tribal businesses can pursue commercial activities that generate revenue, much of which is reinvested into tribal programs and services, such as infrastructure development, education and healthcare, among others.
While these businesses are crucial to a tribe’s ability to sustain itself and provide for its members, they aren’t without their opponents, who far too often attempt to shut down tribally run businesses they disagree with by resorting to common tropes and previously debunked assertions. On this point, […]