The history of tribal-state political relations has been contentious from the beginning of the republic. As a result of these tensions, the relationship of tribal nations and the federal government was federalized when the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1788. Thus, a number of states, especially in the West, were required in their organic acts and constitutions to forever disclaim jurisdiction over Indian property and persons. This article analyzes these disclaimer clauses, explains the factors that have enabled the states to assume some jurisdictional presence in Indian Country, examines the key issues in which disclaimers continue to carry significant weight, and argues that the federal government should reclaim its role as the lone constitutional authority to deal with indigenous nations.

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Copyright © 1998 Oxford University Press. This article first appeared in Publius (Autumn 1998), 55-81.

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