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Native American Tribal Courts

Native American (American Indian and Alaskan Native) tribal courts are grounded in the principle of sovereignty. Many of the more than 500 tribes recognized by the U.S. federal government have courts for the adjudication of civil and criminal cases. These courts vary in their judicial range and authority and are semiautonomous, consistent with their tribes’ histories and limited right to self-government. Accordingly, generalizations concerning their structure and function are unhelpful. To varying extents, the courts reflect the influence of both Native American cultures and European traditions of jurisprudence. They are subject to the limits imposed by federal law, and state jurisdiction is also authorized under some circumstances.

Early views of Native Americans as racially inferior to Whites endured in stereotypes reinforced by the use of Western ...

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