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Kansas Law Review

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Federal Indian Law is frequently described as a jurisdictional quagmire. Depending on the unique history of a given tribe, the extent to which the tribe has retained a territorial boundary or contiguous land-base, and depending on a tribe’s geographic location, a different mix of exclusive or concurrent tribal, state, federal jurisdiction will result. Moreover, the practical realities on the ground often result in one sovereign entity exercising more or less power than the law on the books might otherwise suggest.

In the criminal law context, tribal–state–federal jurisdiction generally rests on the three premises: (1) tribes retain inherent authority to prosecute American Indians, regardless of an individual’s precise tribal affiliation; (2) a mix of federal statutes authorize federal prosecution of some crimes that occur within Indian country; and (3) states lack authority to prosecute Indian country crimes absent express federal authorization of state authority.



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