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“The Congress shall have the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations,

and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes”

The Constitution of the United States of America, Article I, Section 8


Tribal sovereignty has been acknowledged in well-established federal policy that Indian tribes are distinct, independent political communities, retaining their inherent rights of self-governance.    

Even before the formation of the United States federal government, Indian Nations were self-governing, inherent sovereign entities with the same rights, powers, privileges and authorities as any other sovereign nation.  As a result of this inherent sovereignty, Indian tribes hold a unique relationship with the federal, state, and local governments. 

America’s forefathers embraced this unique standing when they included Indian tribes in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution by granting Congress the power to regulate trade with “foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”  More than 200 years of federal law, including the Constitution, federal statues and Supreme Court decisions, have generally upheld the inherent rights and authorities of Indian Tribes. 

Today, California is home to 109 federally recognized Indian tribes - more than any other state in the nation.   

"In a spirit of true partnership and mutual trust, my Administration is committed to respecting the sovereignty of tribal nations and upholding our treaty obligations, which honor our nation-to-nation relationship of peace and friendship over the centuries."

- President Barack Obama, Oct. 31, 2014