Indian Reservations as Sovereign Nations | Native Heritage Project


Did you know that Indian reservations are independent nations?  Indian Nations are allowed, within limits to govern themselves.  Many have their own police forces and courts.

Tribal sovereignty in the United States refers to the inherent authority of indigenous tribes to govern themselves within the borders of the United States of America. The federal government recognizes tribal nations as “domestic dependent nations” and has established a number of laws attempting to clarify the relationship between the federal, state, and tribal governments. The Constitution and later federal laws grant local sovereignty to tribal nations, yet do not grant full sovereignty equivalent to foreign nations, hence the term “domestic dependent nations”.

However, in times of war, all men, including Indians have to register.  In WWI, this caused some consternation.  Each registrar had to record the county name in which the registrant registered.  If they registered on an Indian Reservation, even if the reservation was located within a county, the reservation itself was not part of the county, as it is considered a separate Nation.

TribalLandsThis bureaucratic anomaly became apparent in New York in states East of the Mississippi.  In New York, Indians who registered on the reservation are listed in our old friend, Miscellaneous County.  In other places, Miscellaneous is a sign that someone is either hospitalized, institutionalized or returned a late registration after the county office had closed.  In this case, it’s not necessarily a sign of any of those things, but each return has to be looked at individually to determine the individual circumstance.  Just as I was about to decide that all New York entrants in Miscellaneous County were Reservation Indians, I found one who lived on a reservation, followed by someone of the same name, also an Indian, in prison.  No assumptions allowed.

This map is a very different map of the US.  It’s a map of the US minus the sovereign Indian nations within the continental US.  Sort of looks like Swiss Cheese doesn’t it.  Some of these areas are much larger than one might expect.

Source: Native Heritage Project

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