Native American Law

Native American Law varies from tribe to tribe and today is decided by councils.

Native American law is quite intricate, since every tribe has a different legal system and each system varies in complexity. Many small tribes were simply ruled by a chief with or without a council, but today Native American law is based on representative democracy. Navajo native American law is among the most complex, since there are many Navajo. Native American Law in the Navajo community is dependent on councils who often do not want excessive interference from the American government and wish, when possible, to have full control over their affairs.

Native American Law in the Navajo communities is formed by five agencies with 110 chapters with 88 delegates elected every four years. The agencies have judicial, executive and legislative branches just like the central government. The agencies have plenary power, which means they can submit proposals for new laws to the Secretary of the Interior. Most tribes also have their own tribal codes and laws they follow.

In previous generations, Native American Law varied from tribe to tribe and those who had the most sophisticated forms of Native American law tended to dominate. For instance, the Iroquois were able to incorporate tribes they conquered into their complex governmental system. They were unusual in the fact that they brought in new tribes rather than simply conquering them. This enlarged the Iroquois nation and increased its power. The Iroquois were among the most populous and powerful tribes in the North American continent and it was thanks to their version of Native American Law that they were able to increase their power and their numbers.

Native American Law today is mainly involved with negotiations between tribal representatives and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Such negotiations have been friendlier in recent decades, especially since 1978 since many Native American practices, which had been proscribed for much of the twentieth century, were made legal once again on the grounds of Freedom of religion.

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