Cheat sheet for jurisdiction on indian land



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CHEAT SHEET FOR JURISDICTION ON INDIAN LAND1

Territorial Jurisdiction

The trust status of land within the Reservation only impacts the Tribe’s civil authority over those lands. While the Tribe’s civil jurisdiction extends over all land within the Reservation, (and any trust land belonging to the Tribe or its members outside of the Reservation), the Tribe’s civil jurisdiction over the activities of non-Indians on fee land within the Reservation is extremely limited. For the purpose of determining jurisdiction there is no distinction between trust land owned by the Tribe or trust land owned by individuals. Trust land outside of the Reservation is defined as Indian Country under federal law, and jurisdictional rules apply as if the land were within the Reservation.



Personal Civil Jurisdiction

Tribal Courts have exclusive jurisdiction in civil cases brought against a Tribal member residing on the Reservation, regardless of the citizenship of the plaintiff (member or non-member). Civil suits against Tribal members residing on the Reservation must be brought in Tribal Court.

In general, Tribal Courts do not have jurisdiction against non-member defendants, even those residing on the Reservation, unless the party submits to the jurisdiction of the Tribal Court. There are some limited exceptions to this rule,2 particularly in cases involving children who are enrolled in the Tribe or eligible for enrollment in the Tribe. Of course, if a non-member brings a suit in Tribal Court, they are considered to have waived the issue of personal jurisdiction.

Federal court civil jurisdiction in Indian Country is extremely limited.



Criminal Jurisdiction

Criminal Jurisdiction Within Indian Country

Offender

Victim

Major Crime

Jurisdiction

Indian3

Non-Indian

No

Federal/Tribe

Indian

Non-Indian

Yes

Federal/Tribe

Indian

Indian

No

Tribe

Indian

Indian

Yes

Federal/Tribe

Indian

None

N/A

Tribe

Non-Indian

Indian

N/A

Federal

Non-Indian

Non-Indian

N/A

State

Non-Indian

None

N/A

State

 

 

 

 



1 These answers apply to our Reservation, and other Reservations in non-P.L. 280 states. In states governed by P.L. 280, the federal government has delegated it’s criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country to the states, and in many instances the state also exercises expanded civil jurisdiction in Indian Country.

2 Including the “Montana exceptions” involving non-Indians who have voluntarily engaged in contractual relationships with the Tribe or its members or have engaged in activity which impacts the health, well-being, or governmental integrity of the Tribe.

3 “Indian offenders” in this chart means all Indians: both Tribal members and members of other Indian Tribes who committed crimes on our Reservation.


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