Skip to Main Content

Native Voices

Tribal sovereignty

Tribal sovereignty

Tribal sovereignty is the most important concept in the Indigenous world.  The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, which represents 19 pueblo nations (Laguna, Acoma, Zuni, etc.) in New Mexico defined tribal sovereignty as:

Tribal sovereignty means that tribes have the right to make their own laws, rather than the state or federal government, and to be governed by those laws. Tribal sovereignty is not granted by any institution but, rather, a fundamental right. Since time immemorial, tribes had their own form of government. Tribal governments predate the United States and are the oldest government structures in the Americas.[1]

While tribal sovereignty is often framed in political terms like this, the heart of the concept also engages with issues of identity, cultural integrity, Indigenous ways of being in the world, Indigenous ways of knowing, etc.  For non-Indigenous persons, understanding tribal sovereignty is the most fundamental concept to engage with as we explore Native voices.



Selected materials in the library's collection


Saint Martin's University    5000 Abbey Way SE    Lacey, WA 98503-7500 USA     Map