Tribal courts are courts of general jurisdiction which continue to have broad criminal jurisdiction. The general rule is that states have no jurisdiction over the activities of Indians and tribes in Indian country. Public Law 280 (PL 280) created an exception to this rule in certain states. The U.S. Congress gave these states criminal jurisdiction over all offenses involving Native Americans on tribal lands. Through PL 280, the federal government transferred to these states the federal government’s criminal jurisdiction over Indian country, and it opened state courts up as forums for civil litigation that had previously only been able to be brought in tribal or federal courts. The effect of PL 280 is that in many areas state and tribal courts share jurisdiction.
Links to related online resources are listed below. Non-digitized publications may
be borrowed from the NCSC Library; call numbers are provided.
The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 requires states to “protect the best interests of Indian children.” Many states are collaborating with tribal courts and leaders in innovative ways to ensure permanency and safety for Native American children.
Since the early 1980s, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) has provided expertise in over twenty projects involving various aspects of tribal courts.
A How-To-Do-It-Guide to Prevent and Resolve Jurisdictional Disputes and Improve Cooperation Between Tribal and State Courts. This question and answer guide addresses the role of the forums in the Tribal Courts and State Courts: The Prevention and Resolution of Jurisdictional Disputes Project.
A preliminary examination of the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care’s recommendations as they pertain to state and tribal court involvement in Indian child welfare matters, state Court Improvement Program grants, challenges and promising practices gleaned from tribal-state collaborations around court improvement, and opportunities for progressing court systems for the betterment of AI/AN children.
NICWA and First Focus State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center. This report describes the basic requirements of ICWA, offers an overview of Tribal child welfare and court systems, and discusses the continued disproportionality of AI/AN children in the child welfare system and how this affects trends in ICWA compliance.
National Council for Juvenile and Family Court Judges
This resource is meant to assist state courts in assessing their performance related to compliance with ICWA.
This ICWA educational resource video is the culmination of the ongoing collaboration between the Mississippi Courts, Child Welfare Agency, and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians in consultation with the National Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues and the National Resource Center for Tribes.
Ayazuta is an internet service focused on improving ICWA compliance throughout the United States by validating noticing information for all Federally Registered Tribes.
A brief overview of the changes under TLOA regarding enhanced sentencing authority, offer considerations for correctional/detention and community corrections programming related to enhanced sentences, and provide tribes with a checklist to help guide discussions around implementation of enhanced sentencing authority.
This directory includes a detailed listing of the 10 currently operational Tribal -State Court forums around the nation.
Walking on Common Ground is an on-going initiative to promote and facilitate tribal, state, and federal collaboration. The initial effort focused upon tribal, state, and federal court or justice system collaborations, but it now also includes tribal, state, and federal collaborations on a broader range of issues.
Provides a guide to any individual who has the occasion to appear in Tribal Court in connection with a Civil (any non-criminal) matter.
These recommendations are intended to make Native American and Alaska Native nations safer and more just for all U.S. citizens and to reduce the unacceptably high rates of violent crime that have plagued Indian country for decades