As sovereign nations, tribal governments maintain the power to determine their own governance structures, pass laws, and enforce laws through police departments and tribal courts. Tribal governments provide multiple programs and services, including, but not limited to: social programs, first-responder services, education, workforce development, and energy and land management. They also build and maintain a variety of infrastructure, including roads, bridges, and public buildings.
Historically, many Indian tribal governing documents—like tribal constitutions—are patterned after the U.S. Constitution. This means that the underlying assumptions of who is being served, who is a citizen, and other normative assumptions undergird many tribal governance documents. These founding documents—like the U.S. Constitution—often assume that citizens are genderless (therefore men) and have no sexual orientation (therefore are straight), leaving those that do not fit the assumed normative criteria unrecognized and unprotected by law.
The above excerpt was originally published in Western States Center.
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