|| Rick Eichstaedt, Nez Perce tribal legal counsel, discusses the basis of Nimíipuu sovereignty. (Interviewed by Rodney Frey, November 2001)|
The Nimíipuu government of today is founded upon the same inherent sovereign powers since time immemorial. With the Indian Reorganization Act of the 1930s, the federal policy became focused on establishing a Euro-American style representative government onto the Indian communities. The Bureau of Indian Affairs provided assistance in drafting tribal constitutions and developing tribal governments. The Nez Perce Tribe presently operates under a constitution and bylaws originally adopted in 1948 and which have been amended several times subsequently. See the Nez Perce Tribal Web Page for an outline of the tribal organization, as well as governance and regulations adopted by the tribe.
|| Rick Eichstaedt discusses some of the current Nimíipuu legal initiatives, relating primarily to natural resources, salmon, and treaty rights issues. (Interviewed by Rodney Frey)|
The Nez Perce Constitution delegates most governmental functions to the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee (NPTEC), made up of nine tribal members elected at large from the reservation. Three positions on NPTEC are elected each year by the General Council, which is defined as all enrolled tribal members over the age of 18. The General Council meets twice a year to consider matters of timely importance. Among the functions NPTEC oversees are programs in fisheries and natural and cultural resources, education, health, economic development, law and order, legal affairs, and housing. Associated with these functions is an aggressive land acquisition program in which tribal lands on the reservation lost through the treaty and allotment process are being reacquired.
|| Rick Eichstaedt discusses the nature of "usual and accustomed lands" and "open and unclaimed lands," allowing the Nimíipuu access to fishing, gathering and hunting from Portland, Oregon to Montana. (Interviewed by Rodney Frey, November 2001)|
The Tribe also regulates the exercise of treaty-reserved rights to hunt and fish by tribal members within and outside the Nez Perce Reservation. It also has broad criminal jurisdiction over Indians within the reservation and civil jurisdiction over non-Indians whose actions affect the political integrity, economic well-being or the health and welfare of the tribe. The Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee and its many operational programs thus has virtually all the same responsibilities as any national government, charged with protecting and perpetuating the treaty rights, tribal sovereignty, economic well-being, and cultural heritage of the Nimíipuu way of life.
||Leroy Seth discusses the importance of being unique and maintaining Nez Perce ways. (Interviewed by Josiah Pinkham, November 2001)|
The essential question remains. Many American Indian scholars, such as Duane Champagne (UCLA), Vine Deloria (University of Colorado), and Rebecca Tsosie (Arizona State University), have argued in various ways that ultimately Indian sovereignty must rest within how each tribal community defines its own self-determination, and not on how the U.S. federal government defines the sovereignty for Indian peoples. Each Indian community has its own unique traditions and governance, and should anchor its future on those principles. Based upon what you have learned in this module, and researched from other sources, what do you think is the future of Indian and, espicially, Nimíipuu sovereignty, and how can it best be sustained and enhanced in the future?
© Nez Perce Tribe 2002