FAQ CategoryThe Nature of Federal-Tribal and State-Tribal Relations
In 1953, Congress enacted Public Law 83-280 (67 Stat. 588) to grant certain states criminal jurisdiction over American Indians on reservations and to allow civil litigation that had come under tribal or federal court jurisdiction to be handled by state courts. However, the law did not grant states regulatory power over tribes or lands held in trust by the United States; federally guaranteed tribal hunting, trapping, and fishing rights; basic tribal governmental functions such as enrollment and domestic relations; nor the power to impose state taxes. These states also may not regulate matters such as environmental control, land use, gambling, and licenses on federal Indian reservations.
The states required by Public Law 280 to assume civil and criminal jurisdiction over federal Indian lands were Alaska (except the Metlakatla Indian Community on the Annette Island Reserve, which maintains criminal jurisdiction), California, Minnesota (except the Red Lake Reservation), Nebraska, Oregon (except the Warm Springs Reservation), and Wisconsin. In addition, the federal government gave up all special criminal jurisdiction in these states over Indian offenders and victims. The states that elected to assume full or partial jurisdiction were Arizona (1967), Florida (1961), Idaho (1963, subject to tribal consent), Iowa (1967), Montana (1963), Nevada (1955), North Dakota (1963, subject to tribal consent), South Dakota (1957-1961), Utah (1971), and Washington (1957-1963).
Subsequent acts of Congress, court decisions, and state actions to retrocede jurisdiction back to the Federal Government have muted some of the effects of the 1953 law, and strengthened the tribes’ jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters on their reservations.