Did you know that Native American tribal governments, including the Navajo Nation, are not constitutional states or foreign entities, but “domestic dependent nations”? As such, these tribal governments retain many sovereign powers beyond the authority of the U.S. Federal government.
There are more than 500 tribal governments recognized by the United States government, some with control over very large territories, and with hundreds of thousands of members. The Navajo Nation has a population of over a quarter million and governs more than 15 million acres of land over three Southwestern states.
Who is Involved in Making Laws that Impact the Navajo Nation?
Tribal governments have greatly increased their political and economic impact on the rest of North America, and this has opened up concerns as to the exact definition of their powers. Retaining experienced legal counsel is vital to understanding your place in this. These discussions have included no less than:
- The Supreme Court of the United States
- The Unites States Congress
- The federal Executive Branch
- Tribal governments
- U.S. businesses
- Individual U.S. citizens
When Laws Stack Up, It Gets Complicated
Each tribal government makes its own constitutional laws, which often include older laws created in response to historical necessities that are no longer relevant, but still have the power to be invoked. In the past these laws were often in response to ongoing U.S. Government treaty negotiations, and not one cohesive constitution or body of legislation. Additionally, commercial and social interactions between U.S. constituents and Native Americans are controlled by many other levels of law, ranging from bordering cities to multiple departments of the federal government. As a result, the field of Native American law is possibly the most complex system of legislation in the world.
The most complicated legal relationship exists between the tribes and the states in which they exist. Laws established to keep the tribe and state jurisdiction clear has grown less distinct over time. Issues of tribal sovereignty in matters of non-Indian contracts have led to countless “compacts” (legally binding agreements) between tribal governments and state legislators. These compacts cover a wide area of subjects from taxes to physical resource entitlement.
A well-publicized series of compacts exists between the state and tribal governments concerning Indian gaming. Today it has grown far beyond its original establishment in the 1970’s, and has created a huge economy across the Indian Nation. Because tribal sovereignty overrode existing state prohibitions for gambling, the resulting laws regulating Indian gaming facilities are among the heaviest for any enterprise in the world.
Although the proliferation of Navajo Nation laws makes it harder for you to confidently guide your business, the Navajo Nation economy and culture continues to advance and tribal members and the outsiders doing business with them can find numerous opportunities to prosper. At C.J. Lee & Associates, P.C., we pride ourselves on being able to help steer our clients through any complicated issues without getting needlessly entangled in unseen regulations. We have experience far beyond the ordinary, and we can help you resolve even the stickiest problem. Call us now for a consultation at 505-399-5022