Divergent but Co-Existent: Local Governments and Tribal Governments Under the Same Constitution




Sutton, Victoria

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The Urban Lawyer


This article examines legal issues facing local governments and raises the question of how American Indian tribal government handles such issues. A comparative analysis follows, including the juxtaposition of local government rules with American Indian law. A general conclusion completes the survey.

This article does not examine the relationship between American Indian tribal governments and local governments. From a legal perspective, American Indian tribal governments are generally comparable to state governments. One exception is Article IV, § 4, the constitutional right to a republican form of government for states; this does not apply to tribal governments. There is no analogous right to a republican form for tribal governments. Some statutes list American Indian tribes with states on an equal, self-governing plane. When litigation arises, states must join as a party in order to litigate with tribes, while local governments may not. The nature of these interrelationships impedes legal analysis of local to tribal government issues, because the only legal relationship that exists is between states and the tribes.

One may draw an analogy between the District of Columbia, another form of co-existing constitutional government, and the tribal entities, as the better part of this article attempts. A speculation concerning the future of co-existing governments also follows. This survey ends with a general conclusion on the results of the issue-by-issue comparative analysis for both local and tribal governments.



Local government, Tribal government, Legal issues


31 Urb. Law. 47