The American Indian tribes have a unique status in the law of the United
States. They are characterized as sovereigns that predate the formation of
the republic and possess inherent powers and immunities. Their powers
permit them to create and enforce laws and generally to operate as
autonomous governmental entities with executive, legislative, and
judicial branches. Tribes enjoy immunity from suit and exemption from
federal and state constitutional provisions which protect individual
rights. These powers and immunities provide a connection between tribal
governments and U.S. international human rights obligations. This
Article explores that connection. It examines whether the tribes may
breach certain international human rights obligations of the United
States, whether tribal violations may incur U.S. international
responsibility, and if so, what consequences might result. It constructs an
argument that the United States has failed to implement fully its
international human rights obligations and that it can be held
internationally responsible for tribal violations of human rights. This
argument leads to policy recommendations for the United States and
Cowan, Klint A.
"International Responsibility for Human Rights Violations by American Indian Tribes,"
Yale Human Rights and Development Journal:
1, Article 1.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yhrdlj/vol9/iss1/1