A question about Native American Reservations

Now I know that the title of this post will tempt many of you to make some bad joke about getting a table at a restaurant, or getting into a club, or something like that. that’s not the kind of reservation I’m talking about :smiley:

What I want to know is this. This will be hard for me to articulate, but I’ll give it a try.
I’ve something to the effect that Indian reservations are actually sovereign nations. Is this true?
I’ve also heard that there a lot of treaties signed with the US which is why they can’t always do whatever they want on their own land. For example, here in Oregon, we have a casino called Spirit Mountain, which is on land owned by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Rond. They aren’t allowed to serve alcohol in the casino area, only in the lounge or restaurant areas. This is a state regulation.
Hell, opening the casino took a lot of negotiation between the tribes and the state government, which, since the casino is on Indian land, why would they need state approval for anything if the land isn’t technically US soil?

Also, I remember the story about Indians in, Texas I think it was, who opened up a cigarette shop on their own land to sell cigarettes without charging a state sales tax, only to have the police come in and arrest them all. How could cops have authority in what I’ve heard is technically foreign territory?

So as you can see, this is all confusing, so doesn’t anybody here know what kind of relationship exists between reservations and the US? Or at least, do any of you know a good web site/book/magazine, or something else that contains good information? Thanks.

Indian Reservations are not sovereign nations, but they are sovereign and independent entities, under the authority of the federal government, like the 50 states. Unlike the states, the balance of power between them and the federal government is not defined in the Constitution, but through Congressional legislation, a series of treaties, and a couple hundred years of case law. Needless to say, it can get somewhat complicated. The reservations are independant of the states that surround them, however, which has often led to fueds with state governments about roads, rights-of-way, property and sales taxes, etc.

I’m not familiar with that particular case. Sometimes Indian tribes form their own police forces, and sometimes they share jurisdiction with the local or state police. Naturally this can lead to all sorts of complex jurisdictional conflicts. There are many reservations in the northeast that happily continue to sell cigarettes and other items without charging sales taxes, much to the chagrin of the surrounding states.

Lots of good information can be found at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which handles most aspects of the feds’ relations with the Indian tribes.

Thank you friedo, I’ll defiantly look up that link.
And as for the cigarette thing, it probably wasn’t in Texas, I don’t remember what state, but I really wanted to follow up on it. Basically some Indians decided to set up a cigarette shop on their own land to avoid having to charge state tax. The govoner didn’t like this, and ordered the state police to go in and arrest them. This was a few months back, maybe even about a year or so.

As the term “reservation” indicates, actual Indian reservations are lands which the tribe reserved when it ceded land for settling to a state or to the U.S. They are protected by treaty and by Congressional regulation and case law.

Each Indian “nation” is theoretically an independent nation, but in practice the actual functioning of their sovereignty is a matter of compromise between the Federal government, the state involved, and the tribe involved. Obviously a few hundred Indians living on a township-size parcel of land (which describes most of the Eastern reservations and several of the smaller Western ones) are not in a position to completely run their own affairs totally independently of the large nation that surrounds them. Many require financial assistance; others are financially sound (often because of things like untaxed tobacco products, casinos, and the like) but do not have the wide array of specialists needed to live a normal 21st Century life. (E.g., American Indians suffer from heart disease, cancer, etc., at similar rates to the rest of the world, but one can hardly expect every Indian nation to have a cardiologist, an oncologist, etc., on hand. Nor do they have a plethora of civil engineers to build the infrastructure that may be needed.)

Therefore compromises are established between the ideal of their complete sovereignty and the fact that Realpolitik suggests that they could be forcefully assimilated with hardly a struggle if a Man on Horseback were in power in the U.S. It’s also worth noting that only land to which they have national title is involved in this question – as individuals, they can and do own land elsewhere, and are obliged to honor the laws of the area where it is located, not having special privileges as regards that land specifically due to their Native American ancestry.

For example, Liberal is by paternal ancestry Cherokee. He has every right to settle on the Cherokee reservation in Western North Carolina and operate a business there in accordance with Cherokee law, untrammelled by North Carolina and U.S. laws. But he lives in a city east of there, and operates his business in accordance with North Carolina law.

The situation is slightly different in New York State, owing to the special terms of the Treaty of Oriskany (AKA the Treaty of Fort Stanwix) between the infant U.S. and the Six Nations. The result of the 1980s settlement of longstanding land claims that would have meant Iroquois sovereignty over a belt of land from Massena to Elmira to Windsor means that persons of Iroquois ancestry can claim reservation privileges on any land they own or acquire within that belt, and they have been quick to take advantage of that. In fact, the consulting work I recently completed relates in part to summer resort problems owing to Oneida purchase of a large marina adjacent to the village we were working for, and its consequent removal from public use, as shorefront property for the Oneida people.

My sister, through my telling her about them, has been buying her cigarettes online from an Indian reservation for a couple years now. Its wierd in that the cigarettes are brand name, like Marlboro, but they not only don’t have the NY State tax stamp on them they have a ‘FOR EXPORT ONLY’ stamp on them.

It makes me think that maybe the cigarette companies are allowed to sell their ‘EXPORT ONLY’ products to Indian reservations because, even though they’re not truely a sovereign nation, they’re close enough?

And even though they not as cheap as they originally were (2 or 3 years ago they were literally almost half price, $20/carton for Marlboros!) they’re still pretty cheap. The lesser brands like USA Gold are still almost half price here in NY state (which has the highest price smokes in the US).

I buy butts from a reservation in Kill Buck, N.Y. Their words from the website…’Store is located on land owned by the Sovereign Seneca Nation’
I have never come across the ‘for export only’ notice. All that’s missing is the N.Y. tax stamp. For the past few years, Gov. Pataki and his nazi’s in the tax bureau, have been somewhat successful in stopping the sale of cigarettes from the reservations…to a degree. My site used to give you a choice of how you wanted your order sent, UPS or USPS. Now, their work around is utilizing USPS exclusively, and the reason was the following from whoever answers their phone. ‘UPS requires that you list the contents of a package. USPS does not.
As to why I use the Indian web site? If I bought a carton at a convenience store…75 to 80. The reservation price? $30, any major brand. N.Y. has the highest tax on tobacco in the nation. (as Hail Ants said)