Reservations A to Z

An Indian reservation is an area of land managed by a Native American tribe under the United States Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs.

There are about 310 Indian reservations in the United States, meaning not all of the country’s 550-plus recognized tribes have a reservation — some tribes have more than one reservation, while others have none.

In addition, because of past land allotments, leading to some sales to non-Indians, some reservations are severely fragmented. Each piece of tribal, individual, and privately held land is a separate enclave.

This jumble of private and public real estate creates significant administrative, political, and legal difficulties.

Other names that mean indian reservation

In California, about half of the Indian reservations are called Rancherias and many tribes are referred to as Mission Indians.

In New Mexico, most reservations are called Pueblos.

In some western states, such as Nevada, there are Native American areas called Indian Colonies.

In Alaska, with one exception, Alaskan Natives do not have reservations, but are organized by villages, which do own lands reserved for the use of the village, and  whose interests are overseen by Regional Corporations.
In Canada, reservations are called Reserves.

2.3% of the United States is designated as Indian reservations.

The collective geographical area of all reservations is 55.7 million acres (225,410 km²), representing 2.3% of the area of the United States (2,379,400,204 acres; 9,629,091 km²).

Twelve Indian reservations are larger than the state of Rhode Island (776,960 acres; 3,144 km²) and nine reservations are larger than Delaware (1,316,480 acres; 5,327 km²).

The Navajo Indian Reservation, the largest in the US,  compares in size  to the state of West Virginia.

Reservations are unevenly distributed throughout the country. The majority are west of the Mississippi River and occupy lands that were first reserved by treaty or ‘granted’ from the public domain.

Most reservations have laws independent of off-reservation lands

Because tribes possess tribal sovereignty, even though it is limited, laws on tribal lands vary from the surrounding area. These laws can permit legal tribal casinos on reservations, for example.

The tribal council and tribal courts, not the local or federal government, generally has jurisdiction over reservations. Different reservations have different systems of government, which may or may not replicate the forms of government found outside the reservation.

Most Indian reservations were established by the federal government. A limited number, mainly in the East, owe their origin to state recognition.

As sovereignties, Native American tribes are allowed to enforce both civil and criminal laws among their members. The exception is when a felony crime, such as murder, is involved. Then the FBI has jurisdiction.

They also tax, license, and regulate all activities and commerce that is conducted within their jurisdictional boundaries.

The governments established by the 564 federally recognized Native American tribes are granted with enforcement of many of the same powers the federal government grants to individual states.

These Native American tribes also function under many of the same limitations the government places on states, too.

Individual states and Native American tribes are restricted in their operations by three major limitations placed upon them by the US government.

Neither entity can wage war, coin their own money or establish a money system, and they cannot engage in independent relationships with foreign nations.

Why they are called reservations?

The name “reservation” comes from the conception of the Indian tribes as independent sovereigns at the time the U.S. Constitution was ratified.

Thus, the early peace treaties (often signed under duress) in which Indian tribes surrendered large portions of land to the U.S. also designated parcels which the tribes, as sovereigns, “reserved” to themselves, and those parcels came to be called “reservations.”

The reservation  term remained in use even after the federal government began to forcibly relocate tribes to parcels of land to which they had no historical connection.

As of 2010, approximately 51% of Native Americans and Alaska Natives live somewhere other than their designated tribal reservations, often in large western urban areas, partly due to federal government relocation programs introduced in the 1940s, and partly because that is where employment opportunities are likely to be found….Read more about american indian reservation beginnings.
Also see:US Indian Reservations by State  | US Indian Reservations by Tribe
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