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Contemporary Issues - Jurisdiction & Land

Intro & Sovereignty | Jurisdiction & Land


Along with sovereignty, jurisdiction is an issue that is difficult to explain and to understand. The Standing Rock Nation, for example, is served by several different law enforcement entities—the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Standing Rock Police Department, the Sioux County Sheriff’s Department, and the North Dakota State Highway Patrol—and which entity has jurisdiction over a particular offense is often unclear and complicated to say the least. The jurisdictional maze that has clouded the Indian system of justice has confused layperson, lawyer, judge, and bureaucrat alike. The basic question to be resolved is which level of government assumes jurisdiction over criminal offenses in Indian country...The answer to this question revolves around the interrelationships of the three factors: (a) the location where the crime is committed, (b) the particular statute that has been violated, and (c) the type of persons involved in the crime (Indian/non-Indian). The Bureau of Indian Affairs is a federal agency designed to deal with Indian affairs. The BIA has been criticized by many Indian tribes as being a cumbersome and unneccesary agency which serves little purpose. Other tribes, however, see the BIA as an unwieldy, but necessary, central liaison office and as an official affirmation of treaty obligations. With the federal mandate to downsize the BIA, tribal leaders fear a loss of services and a loss of government services for important programs.


The boundaries of the Standing Rock Nation encompass approximately 1.2 million acres of land in southern North Dakota and northern South Dakota. Since the General Allotment Act of 1887 fragmented tribal lands and allowed for Indian-owned allotments to be sold to non-Indian homesteaders, the tribal land base of Standing Rock has dwindled.

The tribal government of Standing Rock has been concerned with the loss of land base for many years. In recent years, an effort has been made to expand the land holdings of the tribe. Recently, for example, the Standing Rock Nation purchased 15,500 acres of land through the purchase of the Shambo Ranch in Corson County on the South Dakota side of the reservation.

Continue to Document 1: Sioux Pictograph of
the Whitestone Hill Battle...