These constitutions at one time gave the tribes quite a bit of power in making decisions and enforcing legal contracts with the people. However, over the last few years tribal power has been diminished with the most dramatic decrease happening with the Indian Civil Rights Act in 1968. Under this act, tribal courts are denied the power to impose sentences in criminal cases in excess of $5,000. and/or one year in jail (Robertson, 2001, pg 9). This has become a very big issue in taking care of criminal problems on the reservations. To add to the problem, if a tribal member feels their rights have been violated, they cannot take that to Federal Court, it has to go to Tribal Court. Congress has also made the tribes responsible for Environmental Laws as determined by the Federal Government as well as Federal Tax laws.
The United States government maintains that it is the guardian for the tribes or trustee. This role came from the Cherokee Nation v Georgia ( Robertson, 2001, pg 3) This allows the Federal Government to hold the underlying fee title for reservation lands. That is why they are called trust lands. This guardianship capacity like all guardianship laws allows the Federal government to impose legislation affecting Indians that are the best for them. They are supposedly held to a very high standard for this. Tribal status under all of these laws is considered a political classification.
Prohibitory State law applies to reservation land, regulatory does not always. This allows the State and Federal justice system to enforce environmental laws. The reason they can do this is because most environmental laws are prohibitory in nature. On the one hand the Federal government sees that they probably do not have the right to enforce such laws on Indian land but they are also responsible for the welfare of the people under their guardianship clause. It appears from many reviewed cases that the Federal government chooses to enforce when it is convenient to them (www.senat.leg). It is not done the same way every time. This is one of those places where the Reservation Court would not have jurisdiction to enforce because it is Federal law and because the charge is greater than $5,000. It places the tribal enforcement in a poor place because they cannot enforce but are obliged to report. In this case, the advantage seems to be on the side of the State and Federal governments.
Another legal situation that has recently come to light based on the reservations and Federal law is the case the IRS and the auction of Indian lands to pay Internal Revenue taxes. This is one of the poorest Indian Reservations in the nation. The lands belong to the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe. The Federal government says they own Federal income taxes. The tribe has been trying to develop wind energy and this is the land that is set for that development. The land to be auctioned is 7100 acres (Martin, 2009). The law says that Indian tribes are not usually susceptible to tax laws. They are when there is business entities associated with the tribe. The IRS says the