Division of Child Support
Tribal and State relations
A unique relationship exists between Tribes and the State of Washington. This relationship is due to the inherent sovereignty of American Indian tribes. Consequently, tribes are independent governments and not another minority or special interest group.
The term government-to-government was first used to describe the relationship between tribes and the federal government. However, it is also used to describe the relationship and protocols between tribes and other governments such as states.
In the State of Washington, the term government-to-government was first used broadly in the
1989 CENTENNIAL ACCORD between the FEDERALLY RECOGNIZED INDIAN TRIBES in WASHINGTON STATE and the STATE OF WASHINGTON.
Key Concepts of a Government-to-Government Relationship:
- State/Tribes work directly with each other in a government-to-government fashion, rather than as subdivisions of other governments.
- Take appropriate steps to remove legal and procedural impediments to working directly and effectively with each other's governments and programs.
- Encourage cooperation between tribes, the state and local government to resolve problems of mutual concern.
- Incorporate these Principles into planning and management activities, including budget, program development and implementation, legislative initiatives, and ongoing policy and regulation development processes.
- Coordinate and provide mutual assistance as the governments assume new regulatory and program management responsibilities.
What Does Tribal Sovereignty Mean?
American Indian Tribes are recognized in federal law as possessing sovereignty over their members and their territory. Sovereignty means that tribes have the power to make and enforce laws, and to establish courts and other forums for resolution of disputes. The sovereignty that American Indian Tribes posses is inherent, which means that it comes from within the tribe itself and existed before the founding of the United States. Tribal sovereignty is not absolute, but rather is subject to certain limits resulting from the unique relationship of the tribes to the United States. Under federal law, tribes are said to retain all those aspects of their original sovereignty except aspects that have been given up in a treaty, taken away by an act of Congress, or divested by implication as a result of their dependent status. In addition to inherent sovereignty, tribal governments may also exercise authority delegated to them by Congress.
Key Principles of Sovereignty Include:
- Tribes have the authority to, among other things, govern their people and their land; define their own tribal membership criteria; create tribal legislation, law enforcement and court systems; and to impose taxes in certain situations.
- Membership in a sovereign tribe is what distinguishes American Indians as a political group rather than solely an ethnic minority.
- Tribes' sovereign immunity from lawsuits is similar to that of the State of Washington.
Additional Information: The Governor's Office of Indian Affairs offers Government-to-Government training classes to all state agencies.