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Sovereignty-This is the key to understanding Tribal government and the issues facing Native people today. Historically all Tribes exercised sovereign relations with all other Tribes or Nations they came into contact with. Practicing commerce, trade, and yes, sometimes engaging in warfare with one another was the way of life for all Native Tribes.Today they each have some form of a Tribal government or Tribal council that is responsible for the education, health, and welfare of their citizens.

Tribal governments vary in structure; some are democratic, others are theocratic and others are some combination of the two. They seek economic development in a diversity of ways; like any community their economic development will depend on their local resources, leadership and vision. You might say that the business of a Tribe is similar to running the infrastruture of any town government.

A few words about Gaming-Although there are many forms of economic development,the most often written about form of economic development is the growth of Indian Bingo Halls and Casinos. Many people have questions about gaming ventures. At a conference on gaming held in Northern California recently, Priscilla Hunter, Chairperson of the Coyote Band of Pomo expressed this opinion on the status of gaming for Tribes,"For years the government told us to be self-sufficient and so we listened to them and eventually we opened a casino. As soon as we did they said, "Not that way!". I've included a link to the California Nevada Indian Gaming Association below.

Here's the most important thing to know - The exercise of Sovereignty is exclusively the right of a Tribe or Nation. It is not in the purview of individuals, groups or organizations to make decisions for their Tribe. Only Tribes can practice and exercise their sovereign powers. (That also means that they sometimes make mistakes just like any government.) If you want to support Native Americans, you can support Tribal Sovereignty for free exercise of religion, commerce and self determination.

In a nutshell that's it. Of course, this is way oversimplified but for a look at some Native Nations and areas relating to sovereignty on the Net check out the links below.


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This page produced by Peggy Berryhill, maintained by Susan Ruschmeyer, last revised 9/25/97. No part of the contents may be reproduced without written permission of NMRC.