Laws, Treaties and History

The United States has a unique legal relationship with Tribal governments as set forth in the constitution, treaties, statutes, executive orders and court decisions. Since the formation of the union, the United States has recognized Tribes as domestic dependent nations under its protection. The federal government has enacted numerous statutes and promulgated numerous regulations that establish and define a trust relationship with Tribes. Our nation has recognized the right of Tribes to self-government. As domestic dependent nations, Tribes exercise inherent sovereign powers over their members and territory. The United States continues to work with Tribes on a government-to-government basis to address issues concerning Tribal self-government, Tribal trust resources and Tribal treaty and other rights.

Due to the unique and distinctive political relationship that exists between the United States government and Tribal governments, the Service maintains government-to-government relationships with Tribal governments. The Service works directly with Tribes and respect Native American values when planning and implementing programs.

Laws, Policies & Orders

Secretarial Order 3206 (PDF) — American Indian Tribal Rights, Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species Act. Questions and Answers regarding Secretarial Order 3206 (Click here).

Secretarial Order 3225 (PDF) — Application of Secretarial Order 3206 in Alaska.

Secretarial Order 3317 DOI Tribal Consultation Policy.

Executive Order 13175 (PDF) — Consultation and Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments.

Executive Order 13592 — Improving American Indian and Alaska Native Educational Opportunities and Strengthening Tribal Colleges and Universities

Final Report and Recommendations of the Working Group on the Endangered Species Act and Indian Water Rights — Federal Register Notice

Government-to-Government Relationship with Tribal Governments (PDF)
The United States has a unique legal and political relationship with Indian Tribes and a special relationship with Alaska Native entities as provided in the Constitution of the United States, treaties, and Federal statutes. Presidents for decades have recognized this relationship. President Nixon announced a national policy of self-determination for Indian Tribes in 1970. More recently, Executive Order 13175, entitled Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments, was issued in 2000. I reiterated my Administration's adherence to a government-to-government relationship and support for Tribal sovereignty and self-determination earlier this year in Executive Order 13336, entitled American Indian and Alaska Native Education.

Limitation on Section 9 Protections Applicable to Salmon Listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act, for Actions under Tribal Resource Management Plans — Tribal Plans (65 FR 108, January 3, 2000)

Memorandum For The Heads Of Executive Departments And Agencies, Tribal Consultation (PDF)
The United States has a unique legal and political relationship with Indian Tribal governments, established through and confirmed by the Constitution of the United States, treaties, statutes, executive orders, and judicial decisions. In recognition of that special relationship, pursuant to Executive Order 13175 of November 6, 2000, executive departments and agencies (agencies) are charged with engaging in regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with Tribal officials in the development of Federal policies that have Tribal implications, and are responsible for strengthening the government-to-government relationship between the United States and Indian Tribes.

Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties (compiled and edited by Charles J. Kappler).

Tribal Law and Policy Institute: The Tribal Law and Policy Institute is a Native American owned and operated non-profit corporation organized to design and deliver education, research, training, and technical assistance programs which promote the enhancement of justice in Indian country.

The National Indian Law Library: The National Indian Law Library (NILL) is a public law library devoted to federal Indian and Tribal law. Our mission is to develop and make accessible a unique and valuable collection of Indian law resources and other information relating to Native Americans.

Legal Resources: Treaties

First People, Treaties and Agreement: Native American Indian Agreements and Treaties.

Indian Law Resource Center

Library of Congress Guide to Indian Law

Native American Constitution and Law Digitization Project

Native American Law – New England Law, Boston Library

The Source and Scope of Indian Law – Definitions described by the Center for Indigenous Law, Governance, & Citizenship –Syracuse University

Treaties Between the United States and Native Americans

North American Indian Tribes: From the date of its first appearance in 1891 the Powell map of "Linguistic Families of American Indians North of Mexico" has proved of the widest utility. It has been reissued several times and copied into numerous publications. There has, however, been almost equal need of a map giving the location of the Tribes under the several families.

Law Library of Congress, Indians of North America: This guide is a compilation of many of the resources on the Indians of North America available at the Library of Congress as well as selected resources outside the Library. The purpose of this guide is to present researchers with selected sources through which they can begin and expand their scope of study of the Indians of North America.

Native American Timeline of Events

The History of Native America





Last updated: August 13, 2019