Monday, January 11, 2016

Tribes and Tribal Law in Washington State

There are currently 29 federally-recognized tribes in Washington State.

The concept of tribal sovereignty is recognized in the U.S. Constitution, perhaps most famously in the Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8): "Congress shall have the power to regulate Commerce with foreign nations and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes." U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshal fleshed out the legal concept of tribal sovereignty in the three seminal cases of Johnson v. M'Intosh (21 U.S. 543), Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, (30 U.S. 1), and Worcester v. Georgia (31 U.S. 515). Congress also protected the rights of federally-recognized tribes in the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. As "domestic dependent nations," many federally-recognized tribes have their own constitutions, codes, and courts.

Map of federally-recognized Washington State tribes (

List of federally-recognized Washington State tribes* (
  • Colville Confederated Tribes
  • Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation
  • Confederated Tribes of the Yakama Nation
  • Cowlitz Tribe
  • Hoh Tribe
  • Jamestown S'Klallam Indian Tribe
  • Kalispel Tribe 
  • Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe
  • Lummi Nation
  • Makah Nation
  • Muckleshoot Tribe
  • Nisqually Tribe
  • Nooksack Tribe
  • Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe
  • Puyallup Tribe
  • Quileute Tribe
  • Quinault Nation
  • Samish Nation
  • Sauk-Suiattle Tribe
  • Shoalwater Bay Tribe
  • Skokomish Tribe
  • Snoqualmie Tribe
  • Spokane Tribe
  • Squaxin Island Tribe
  • Stillaguamish Tribe
  • Suquamish Tribe
  • Swinomish Tribe
  • Tulalip Tribes
  • Upper Skagit Tribe
* There are also unrecognized tribes; the city of Seattle is named after Chief Seattle of the Duwamish Tribe, which has long campaigned for federal recognition.

Navigating the complexities of federal Indian law and tribal law can be a challenge. Fortunately, the Gallagher Law Library has a guide to Indian & Tribal Law Research. Our reference area also contains several useful resources:
  • Cohen's Handbook of Federal Indian Law (2012) (KF 8205.C6)
  • Fixico's Treaties with American Indians (2008-) (KF 8203.6 T74)
  • Indian Law Reporter (1974-) (KF 8201 A3 I5)
  • Pevar's The Rights of Indians and Tribes (2012) (KF 8210 C5 P48)
  • West's American Tribal Law Reporter (2009-) (KF 8204.5 W47)
Our librarians are ready to help you with your Indian and tribal law questions. Come see us soon!

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