Native Americans are governed by two types of laws in the United States. The first combines State and Federal laws all United States residents must adhere to. Indian law is the second, and is only applicable to Native American tribal groups. This provides Native Americans with a unique business and legal environment.
The political community of an Indian tribe is independent and distinct. Their natural rights regarding local self-government have been retained. They possess the right to regulate their social and internal relations. Practically speaking, they can make their own laws and abide by them. Their government responsibilities are performed by the tribal council, tribal courts and tribal chairman. As with all sovereign governments, they cannot be sued due to common law sovereign immunity. The only exceptions are if the tribe has waved immunity, or the suit has been authorized by Congress.
Indian tribes are shielded by sovereign immunity from injunctive relief, declaratory relief and monetary damages. If the official of a tribal government exceeds their authority, they are subject to damages and claims.
Claims made against non-Indian entities or persons only have jurisdiction in a tribal court when it becomes necessary for the control of internal relations or for the protection of the tribal self-government. Non-Indian reservation activities are given tribal jurisdiction when the party has consensually entered into an arrangement with the tribe. Without this contractual relationship, a non-Indian must be sued in federal or state court.
Due to the complicated nature of tribal sovereign immunity, any questions should be answered in a consultation with a Coachella Valley Native American trust lawyer.