Treaties by Tribe
Treaties by Tribe
Between 1778, when the first treaty was made with the Delawares, to 1871, when Congress ended the treaty-making period, the United States Senate ratified 370 treaties. At least 45 others were negotiated with tribes but were never ratified by the Senate.
Congress ended treaty-making with Indian tribes in 1871. Since then, relations with Indian groups have been formalized and/or codified by Congressional acts, Executive Orders, and Executive Agreements.
The treaties that were made often contain commitments that have either been fulfilled or subsequently superseded by Congressional legislation.
In addition, American Indians and Alaska Natives can access education, health, welfare, and other social service programs available to all citizens, if they are eligible. Even if a tribe does not have a treaty with the United States, or has treaties that were negotiated but not ratified, its members may still receive services from the BIA or other federal programs, if eligible.
The relationship between federally recognized tribes and the United States is one between sovereigns, i.e., between a government and a government. This “government-to-government” principle, which is grounded in the United States Constitution, has helped to shape the long history of relations between the federal government and these tribal nations.
Because the Constitution vested the Legislative Branch with plenary power over Indian Affairs, states have no authority over tribal governments unless expressly authorized by Congress. While federally recognized tribes generally are not subordinate to states, they can have a government-to-government relationship with these other sovereigns, as well.
Federally recognized tribes possess both the right and the authority to regulate activities on their lands independently from state government control. They can enact and enforce stricter or more lenient laws and regulations than those of the surrounding or neighboring state(s) wherein they are located. Yet, tribes frequently collaborate and cooperate with states through compacts or other agreements on matters of mutual concern such as environmental protection and law enforcement.
Tribes possess all powers of self-government except those relinquished under treaty with the United States, those that Congress has expressly extinguished, and those that federal courts have ruled are subject to existing federal law or are inconsistent with overriding national policies. Tribes, therefore, possess the right to form their own governments; to make and enforce laws, both civil and criminal; to tax; to establish and determine membership (i.e., tribal citizenship); to license and regulate activities within their jurisdiction; to zone; and to exclude persons from tribal lands.
Limitations on inherent tribal powers of self-government are few, but do include the same limitations applicable to states, e.g., neither tribes nor states have the power to make war, engage in foreign relations, or print and issue currency.
Any “special” rights held by federally recognized tribes and their members are generally based on treaties or other agreements between the tribes and the United States. The heavy price American Indians and Alaska Natives paid to retain certain rights of self-government was to relinquish much of their land and resources to the United States. U.S. law protects the inherent rights they did not relinquish. Among those may be hunting and fishing rights and access to sacred sites.