American Indian Law

There are twelve federally recognized Native American tribes in the state of Michigan, all of which have independent laws unique to their traditions and culture. These twelve sovereign tribes are inherently vested with the right to govern themselves.

Kreis Enderle’s American Indian Law attorneys recognize the need to consider the intricate culture of each native client, whether a government or individual. We are committed to preserving this identity throughout, and in all aspects of, our representation. A member of our legal team is a tribal citizen; her cultural understanding and knowledge of tribal practices aids in our firm’s pledge to protect the rights and traditions of our clients.

American Indian law covers a realm of matters, including employment, family, financial, property, and governance.

Areas of Concentration:

  • Tribal Governance
  • Tribal Laws and Practices
  • Indian Child Welfare Act
  • Natural Resource  Rights
  • Gaming Rights
  • Federal Laws Applicable to Tribes


Do state or federal laws apply to tribes?

Generally, state laws do not apply to tribes or those found within the boundaries of Indian Country (best understood as “tribal trust land” though it does encompass more). While some Federal laws apply to tribes, tribal laws typically still operate consecutively through their status as an independent, sovereign government. There are some complex exceptions, but as a rule, tribes regulate the conduct of individuals, businesses, and tribal government within their respective jurisdictions.

If I get a ticket from a tribe or receive a tribal court order, do I have to abide by it?

Yes. Tribes have general civil jurisdiction even over non-citizens and as such they have enforcement powers to compel compliance through measures including arrest and detainment. Tribes also employ, train, and cross-deputize police officers who have police powers on and off trust lands.

Can I sue a tribe or tribal citizen?

Tribes are sovereign entities and usually immune to civil litigation, which usually extends to its employees or agents. Sometimes tribes limitedly waive their immunity under very precise conditions; if you are unaware of such a waiver, chances are the tribe did not engage in one for your desired lawsuit. Tribal citizens are subject to state lawsuits just like non-citizens, meaning that if a citizen engages in tortious conduct off trust land, he or she may be sued in accordance with state or federal laws. Tribal citizens may be sued in tribal court also, even by non-citizens, depending on the law of that particular tribe; this is especially true if the conduct complained of occurred on tribal trust land.

Can I serve a tribal citizen or employee on trust lands?

Yes, however you must abide by the applicable tribe’s legal requirements to engage in such conduct. Some tribes require tribal police to execute service, while others require tribal court review and order to pursue it. Your service will not be effective if you fail to comply with the tribal law.

How do non-citizens know what the laws are?

Like traveling to a different state or country, visitors are expected to be familiar with the laws in that jurisdiction; ignorance of the law is not a defense, no matter where you are. Many times, tribal laws are available on a tribal website. A simple call to the tribal court can help you determine the best approach to determine how you can become familiar with particular laws.

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