Working Effectively with Tribal Governments

Introduction to Tribal Concepts

Dependent Indian Communities

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"Dependent Indian communities" are included within the 18 U.S.C. _ 1151 definition of "Indian country" as a result of a 1913 U.S. Supreme Court decision, United States v. Sandoval, 231 U.S. 28, which held that the New Mexico Pueblos that hold their lands in fee simple are dependent Indian communities. That case, and another Supreme Court decision, United States v. Candelaria, 271 U.S. 432 (1926), which held that the Pueblo tribes could not sell their land without the consent of the United States, established that dependent Indian communities were to be considered Indian country, even if they were not situated within a reservation. However, not all other Native American communities have been found to meet the statutory definition of "dependent Indian communities."

The 1998 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Alaska v. Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government, 522 U.S. 520, held that "dependent Indian communities" refers to a limited category of Indian lands which are neither reservations nor allotments and which must satisfy two requirements: first, they must have been set aside by the federal government for the use of the Indians as Indian land; and, second, they must be under federal superintendence.

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