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Q: Are there different laws on the reservation than off of the reservation?

A: Yes, federal Indian reservations are areas of land that are controlled by the tribes that live on them and protected by federal law. Each recognized tribe is considered a sovereign nation and as such, they have the ability to create and enforce their own laws on their land (U.S. Constitution Article I §8).


Q: Where can I find the laws for the reservations?

A: Many tribes have websites that include their laws. A compiled list of tribal laws can be found online at the National Indian Law Library ( or at the Tribal Court Clearinghouse (


Q: If I commit a crime on a reservation can I be punished?

A: Yes, crimes that are committed on a reservation can be punished by the tribe and by federal law, even some state laws may apply depending on the crime.


Q: I thought it was illegal to gamble in Arizona, is gambling legal on a reservation?

A: Yes, all Native Americans born in the territorial limits of the United States of America are U.S. Citizens as well as citizens of their state. Individual tribes define the requirements for being citizens of their tribes.  


Q: I thought it was illegal to gamble in Arizona, is gambling legal on a reservation?

A: You may gamble at a casino on the reservation if you are 21 years old or older (A.R.S. §5-601). Only reservations are allowed to have businesses that conduct gambling, however, other gambling such as the lottery are permissible if the player is 21 years old or older (A.R.S. §13-3301 & A.R.S. §5-565).


Q: How do tribes get federal recognition?

A: Tribes are federally recognized through treaties, acts of Congress, federal court decisions or administrative procedures (25 CFR §83).


Q: How do Native Americans govern their tribes?

A: Historically, tribes have governed themselves according to their cultural traditions, customs and clans. Today, for the most part, they govern themselves through elections and self-government.


Laws may have changed since the last time this article was updated.  The current and most up-to-date laws can be accessed here.