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Working Effectively with Tribal Governments

Federal Indian Law and Policy

Navajo Nation Judicial Branch and Department of Police

Introduction to Jurisdictional Issues

Jurisdiction is the power of a government to exercise authority over persons and things in a specified territory. When a government has jurisdictional authority, its laws or regulations will apply, and its courts may be the forum in which disputes are heard and where cases involving violations of the law are adjudicated.

There are three types of domestic sovereign governments recognized by the laws of the United States: federal, tribal, and state. In Indian country, sometimes the jurisdictions overlap. "Indian Country" is a legal term of art that is found in Title 18 United States Code 1151 and includes all areas within a reservation, including non-Indian owned fee land; dependent Indian communities; and Indian allotments to which title has not been extinguished. Courts have interpreted 1151 to include lands held in trust by the United States for a tribe or an individual Indian. Although the "Indian country" definition is found in the federal criminal statutes, it is also used in civil cases.

Select here to view the statutory definition of Indian country found at 18 U.S.C. § 1151.

This module will discuss jurisdictional issues related to:

  • Civil jurisdiction.
  • Criminal jurisdiction.
  • Tribal and state relations.



Select the link for more information. Then, select the right arrow to continue.

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