Tribal Constitutions & Codes


During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, tribes began to adopt written constitutions and codes of law under pressure from federal authorities. These constitutions and codes were often based on boilerplates templates pressed onto the tribes by the federal government, particularly those adopted pursuant to the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. These outdated and culturally inappropriate constitutions and codes remain in force in many tribes, often making it difficult for tribes to make desired changes to their governing structure and their systems of justice. In recent years, however, some tribes have begun the arduous task of rewriting their constitutions and codes to better reflect their unique histories, traditions, and needs. This movement has accelerated in the wake of recent federal legislation, like the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and the the Violence Against Women Act of 2013, both of which authorize the expansion of tribal court authority if certain constitutional and procedural requirements are met.