Tribes as Sovereign Nations

Throughout much of the nineteenth century and continuing to the present day, the United States government has recognized Indian tribes as "domestic, dependent nations"—that is, distinct and sovereign nations with the power to govern themselves. This "nation-within-a-nation" status has led to much confusion between federal agencies and American Indian tribes, but legal cases continue to affirm that tribes retain all rights that they did not specifically give away by treaty, including the right to self-governance.