Sovereign Relations

The unique relationship between the federal and tribal governments is based on the U. S. Constitution, congressional legislation, treaties, executive orders, and judicial decisions that recognize reserved rights of Native Americans to protect their property and their way of life. Several of the pertinent executive orders and policies, listed below, describe the relationship between the tribes and federal government.

West Coast Region Indian tribes retain strong spiritual and cultural ties to marine and other aquatic resources including salmon and steelhead, based on thousands of years of use for tribal religious/cultural ceremonies, subsistence, and commerce. Many Pacific Northwest Indian tribes have treaties reserving their right to fish in “Usual and Accustomed” fishing places and include many species in addition to salmon and steelhead. These tribes are co-managers of the fishery resource in partnership with the states and federal government. They participate in management decisions including those related to hatchery production and harvest. Some other tribes in the West Coast Region, whose reservations were created by executive order, have a trust relationship with the federal government and an interest in marine resources including all aspects of salmon and steelhead management.

Tribal treaty-reserved fishing rights in the Columbia Basin and western Washington are under the continuing jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court for the Districts of Oregon and Washington in the cases of United States v. Oregon and United States v. Washington (No. 68-513 and Civ. No. 9213, respectively). In these cases, the court described the limits of state regulations of treaty fisheries and affirmed that treaties reserved for the tribes 50 percent of the harvestable surplus of fish destined to pass through their usual and accustomed fishing areas. When the U. S. set aside the Yurok and Hoopa Valley Indian Reservations along the Klamath and Trinity Rivers, it reserved “federally protected fishing rights to the fishery resource in the rivers running through the reservations.” See: .

List of Federally-Recognized Tribes

Most tribes have websites with valuable information about the tribe, related treaties, and the tribal government/departments. Many of the tribes also are represented by intertribal organizations.