What is Sovereignty?
For a federally recognized tribe like Koi Nation, sovereignty carries with it great meaning and symbolism. It is as closely protected as our tribes legacy of culture and tradition.
Native American history is one marked by manipulation, contradiction and injustice. It is a history of broken promises, broken treaties and broken dreams. Native Americans have historically fought for sovereignty because of what it represents: tradition, independence and self-reliance.
Legally, philosophically and politically, sovereignty is closely identified with power and control. Throughout U.S. history, government officials determined that since the Native populations had not subdued or controlled their environment, they had no legal or civil right to their lands.
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard numerous cases that determined the legal extent of tribal sovereignty with the U.S. Issues related to criminal jurisdiction, treaties, state taxes, licensing and the inherent rights of sovereign Indian nations were addressed on many occasions. Finally, in the 1978 case of The United States v. Wheeler 435 U.S. 313, the courts recognized the inherent right of tribal sovereignty. Since that time, there have been many other legal opinions recognizing tribal sovereignty over reservation lands.
Sovereignty represents a legacy of self-determination for Native Americans. Our ancestors never laid claim to the land they lived on, choosing instead to give thanks to the Earth and sky for the bounty of food, shelter and other basic amenities they provided. To Native Americans, sovereignty simply means the living relationship between the people and the land on which they live.