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Myths and Realities of Tribal Sovereignty: The Law and Economics of Indian Self-Rule

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  • Kalt, Joseph P.

    (Harvard U)

  • Singer, Joseph William

    (Harvard U)

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    Abstract

    The last three decades have witnessed a remarkable resurgence of the American Indian nations in the United States. The foundation of this resurgence has been the exercise of self-government – sovereignty – by the more than 560 federally-recognized tribes in the U.S. In this study, we explore legal and economic dimensions of current perceptions of and debates over the nature and extent of tribal self-rule in the United States. Our objective is to clarify and illuminate by distinguishing between myth and reality. We address key threads of thought and assumption that pervade, accurately or inaccurately, discussions in the public policy arena. What emerges is a picture in which tribes do exercise substantial, albeit limited, sovereignty. This sovereignty is not a set of “special” rights. Rather, its roots lie in the fact that Indian nations pre-exist the United States and their sovereignty has been diminished, but not terminated. Tribal sovereignty is recognized and protected by the U.S. Constitution, legal precedent, and treaties, as well as applicable principles of human rights.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government in its series Working Paper Series with number rwp04-016.

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    Date of creation: Mar 2004
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    Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp04-016

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    1. Cornell, Stephen & Kalt, Joseph P., 2000. "Where's the glue? Institutional and cultural foundations of American Indian economic development," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 29(5), pages 443-470.
    2. Krepps, Matthew B. & Caves, Richard E., 1994. "Bureaucrats and Indians: Principal-agent relations and efficient management of tribal forest resources," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 133-151, July.
    3. Cornell, Stephen & Kalt, Joseph P, 1995. "Where Does Economic Development Really Come From? Constitutional Rule among the Contemporary Sioux and Apache," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 33(3), pages 402-26, July.
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