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Dispute Resolution, Enforcement, and Jurisdiction

Jennifer H. Weddle, Energy and Mineral Development in Indian Country

Therefore, whenever a company does business with an Indian tribe, the company should be aware of the potential Indian law3 components to transactions with the tribe. Basic Indian law concerns presented in typical development contracts are summarized below.4 These topics include: (I) Understanding When The Company Is Doing Business with a Tribe; (II) Basic Contracting Issues; (III) Sovereign Immunity; (IV) Tribal Court Procedures; (V) Jurisdiction, Applicable Law and Dispute Resolution; (VI) Section 17 Corporations and Tribal Business Entities; and (VII) Authority and Signatories.

I. Understanding When a Company Is Doing Business with a Tribe

What is an Indian tribe? It is a government - “a group of Indians that is recognized as constituting a distinct and historically continuous political entity for at least some governmental purposes.”5 The term “recognized,” however, has a distinct and political meaning. It means that the United States government, by an official action, has recognized that particular tribe as a tribe, in essentially the same manner as it recognizes various nations as members of the world community.

Only tribes that are federally-recognized have the benefits and powers of an Indian tribe. The United States Bureau of Indian Affairs periodically publishes a list of the federally- [10-3] recognized tribes in the Federal Register.6 Ther