12 Stan. L. & Pol'y Rev. 191 (2001)
Rethinking the Tribal Sovereignty Doctrine: Cultural Sovereignty and the Collective Future of Indian Nations

handle is hein.journals/stanlp12 and id is 197 raw text is: Rethinking the Tribal Sovereignty
Doctrine: Cultural Sovereignty and
the Collective Future of Indian
Wallace Coffey and Rebecca Tsosie

It is time to re-
conceptualize Native
sovereignty from a model
that treats sovereignty as a
strategy to maintain
culture, to a model that
. . .   . . .   -  . . .

INTRODUCTION                    anatyzes cut
This article is the result of a context and)
dialogue between colleagues who
live and work within a particular   the exerci,
universe which Indian people know  autonomy a,
very well and non-Indians know        ofIndia
very little: the cultural existence of
an Indian nation with its own
territory, identity, and history, that has been enveloped by
another nation in a contemporary pluralistic and
multicultural society. This universe is governed by
Federal Indian Law, the most byzantine series of
statutes, regulations, treaties, and court opinions that any
nation has ever possessed. However, it is not defined by
Federal Indian Law, but by the moral vision that has
always guided Indian nations in their collective existence

Mr. Coffey and Ms. Tsosie both serve on the Board of Directors
of the Native American Rights Fund, which provided the impetus
for this dialogue on cultural sovereignty. Mr. Coffey is a
Cultural Resources Specialist with the Institute of American
Indian Arts, and prior to this he served as Chairman of the
Comanche Tribe for two consecutive terms. Ms. Tsosie is
Professor of Law and Executive Director of the Indian Legal
Program at Arizona State University.

ure as a lving
lundation for
se of group
zd the survival
Ft nations.

as distinctive peoples.   It is a
universe  that   is   beset   with
jurisdictional, social, and economic
problems. But it is also the universe
that encompasses our lives as Indian
people, and it is what unites us,
inspires us, gives us hope that there
is a future, and gives us hope that our
collective future as Indian nations
will define the terms of our existence
in the twenty-first century.
This   article  calls  for  a
reappraisal of the tribal sovereignty
doctrine, one which looks within-to
the cultural sovereignty of Indian
Nations-for the core of its meaning
rather than to an externally defined
notion    of    tribal   political

sovereignty. Part I of the article examines the limitations
of the political sovereignty doctrine as it has been applied
to Indian nations. In Part II, the article attempts to
construct a doctrine of cultural sovereignty, premised on
the central components of sovereignty as it is exercised
and understood within tribal communities. Part III of the
article suggests that cultural sovereignty is a process of
reclaiming culture and of building nations. Using the
metaphor of repatriation, we discuss the key features of
that process. Part IV concludes the article by offering a
vision of what the future of Indian nations might be under
a reconceptualized and integrated notion of political and
cultural sovereignty.
The alternative vision of tribal sovereignty that we
endorse ultimately depends upon the willingness of Indian
nations, including their leaders, attorneys, and citizens, to

VOLUME 12:2 2001

Cultural sovereignty is the
heart and soul that you
have, and no one has
jurisdiction over that but
-Wallace Coffey

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