Tribal Sovereignty Reading Group





(Open to 1L HLS students only) 
Professor Joseph William Singer 
Tentative Meeting Dates: Meeting time: 5:00 to 7:00 pm  
Dates: Tue Sept 15, Tue Sept 29, Wed Oct 14, Tue Oct 27 

There are currently 574 federally-recognized Indian nations within the territorial boundaries of the United States. The U.S. has entered into more than 200 treaties with many of those Indian nations and has enacted extensive legislation regulating relations among the federal government, the state governments, and the tribal governments. Indian nations have a form of sovereignty unique in the entire world; they are not exactly like foreign nations, but they are also not exactly like states or territories either. The U.S. Supreme Court has called them "domestic dependent nations." What that means is a very interesting question. So is the question of what the relationship between the tribes and the U.S. should be. While tribes are physically located within state boundaries, they are also outside the scope of state jurisdiction for many purposes. Tribes exercise sovereign powers over their own citizens and, in some cases, over non-citizens (both Indian and non-Indian) as well, through tribal constitutions, legislatures, courts, governmental institutions, and customary practices. Tribal sovereignty is both respected and curtailed by federal assertions of power. 

This reading group will focus on the history and current status of tribal sovereignty, as well as the normative and legal issues raised by the unique status of Indian nations in the federal system.