A Dollar for Your Thoughts: Dollar General and the Supreme Court’s Struggle with Tribal Civil Jurisidiction
Tribes have been deemed “quasi-sovereign nations” with a unique amalgam of attributes, at once having a “dependent status” and being “distinct, independent political communities” that retain some of their original sovereignty. There are 567 federally recognized Indian tribes in the United States, with approximately 56.2 million acres of land held in trust by the federal government on behalf of the Indian tribes, and 326 land areas administered as Indian reservations. It is inevitable that non- Indian, non-member businesses, and individuals will travel through, live on, establish businesses on, fish or hunt on, and even commit crimes or torts on these lands.
For as long as the United States has existed, the federal government and the Indian tribes have had a complicated relationship. The policies toward these tribes have fluctuated from one extreme to another, from elimination to self-determination. Justice Marshall once noted that the legislature’s authority over tribal matters is extremely broad, and as such, the role of courts in interfering in tribal affairs ought to be restrained. Yet when it comes to non-members, interference in tribal legislative and adjudicatory jurisdiction has become quite common in the past few decades. In the past twenty-nine years, the Supreme Court has ruled against tribal interests in seventy-two percent of the fifty-five cases heard. The Roberts Court has considered four cases in the past year alone.