Native American Caucus delves into Indian Law
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Members of the Native American Caucus recently attended an overview of Indian law in Arizona and the United States.
At the meeting, retired Apache County Superior Court Judge Michael C. Nelson gave a presentation on the evolution and present status of the legal relationship between Indian Nations, states and the federal government. He said that often times, elected officials believe that their actions do not affect people living in Indian Nations, but there are many people who live and do business in Indian Nations who are subject to state regulations.
“You cannot say that state action stops at the reservation line. It doesn’t. It is a much more complex discussion than that, and that is what I was trying to get across today,” Nelson said.
Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson (District 9), thanked Nelson for his presentation and said that it is important that state legislators understand their relationship with Arizona’s 22 Indian Nations.
“Today’s presentation provided an exceptional opportunity to better understand the interactions between tribes, the state, and the federal government, which is vital information for legislators in Arizona to have,” Steele said.
Rep. Sally Ann Gonzales, D-Tucson (District 3), agreed that the topic is important.
“We were very happy that Judge Nelson could share with us his expertise on this topic,” Gonzales said.
She added that she thinks this information should be shared with more people. Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), echoed that sentiment.
“I have spoken to my colleagues about how the U.S. Constitution does not apply to Native Americans on Indian reservations. The result is a federal government that has little restraint in its dealings with Native Americans,” Hale said. “Today’s caucus topic hopefully opened some eyes to why that is so. The ‘right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness’ has been constrained and dictated by the federal and state governments in their relations with Native American sovereign nations, all resulting in discriminatory treatment of Native American peoples and nations.”