Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Indian Tribe Definition:

A body of Indians of the same or a similar race, united in a community under one leadership or government, and inhabiting a particular though sometimes ill-defined territory.

Related Terms: Band, Reserve

In Candelaria, Justice Willis Van Devanter (1859-1941) of the Supreme Court of the United States preferred this description of Indian tribe:

"... a body of Indians of the same or a similar race, united in a community under one leadership or government, and inhabiting a particular though sometimes ill-defined territory."

In the 1872 decision of that same court in Holden v Joy, Justice Nathan Clifford (1803-1881) wrote:

"Indian tribes are States in a certain sense, though not foreign States, or States of the United States, within the meaning of the second section of the third article of the Constitution... They are not States within the meaning of any one of those clauses of the Constitution, and yet in a certain domestic sense, and for certain municipal purposes, they are States, and have been uniformly so treated since the settlement of our country and throughout its history, and numerous treaties made with them recognize them as a people capable of maintaining the relations of peace and war, of being responsible, in their political character, for any violation of their engagements, or for any aggression committed on the citizens of the United States by any individual of their community."

In Navajo Tribal Utility, Justice Wallace of the United States Court of Appeals wrote:

"In short, Indian tribes or bands are separate communities of citizens of Indian descent, possibly with a common racial origin, possessing the power of a sovereign to regulate their internal and social relations."

This term is subject to different statutory definitions depending on the purpose of the statute. Thus, in Dille v. Council of Energy Resource Tribes, Madam Justice Deanell Tasha of the United States Court of Appeals noted that:

"... the definition of an Indian tribe changes depending upon the purpose of the regulation or statutory provision under consideration."

REFERENCES:

  • Dille v. Council of Energy Resource Tribes, 801 F. 2d 373
  • Holden v Joy, 81 US 211 (1872)
  • Navajo Tribal Utility Authority v. Arizona Department of Revenue, 608 F. 2d 1228 (1979)
  • United States v. Candelaria, 271 US 432 (1926)

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