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Tribal Powers in Louisiana

Tribal Powers in Louisiana


One of the Founding constitutional principles of the United States is federalism. This system of governing divides power between the national and state governments. While the national government creates laws and conducts affairs that affect the nation as a whole (such as creating foreign policy or regulating trade between the states), state governments have powers over more local issues like health, policing, and roads. For Native American tribes living on reservations, however, power is uniquely divided between the national government and the tribal government.  

For example, the state of Louisiana is home to a large Native American population. The federal government officially recognizes 4 Native American tribes—the Chitimacha, Coushatta, Jena Band of Choctaw, and the Tunica-Biloxi tribes—each of which live on their own reservations across the state of Louisiana. 


United States Constitution 

Tribal Governance 



  • Have students read the first sentence of the third paragraph of Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution Then students should read the third paragraph of Article I, Section 8. Have students write a quick reflection to the question: What is in these sections that demonstrates that Native American tribes are treated uniquely in our constitutional framework? Students can answer these questions in their journals, small groups, or in partners.  
  • Next, students should read the Tribal Governance article (minus the final two paragraphs) and answer the Comprehension Questions. 


  1. In your own words, what does the term “sovereignty” mean? Why do you think it is important for Native Americans to be sovereign on their own lands? 
  2. How are tribal governments and state governments similar? Based on your reading of the Constitution and the article, what makes tribal governments unique? 
  3. What is the role of the national government when it comes to policies concerning Native Americans? 
  4. In what ways does tribal self-governance on a local level promote liberty and justice? 


Students should select one of the four Native American tribes in Louisiana and research it. They can either write a short essay or make a presentation on the tribe, focusing on the following points. 

  • Give a brief history of the tribe and its past relationship with the United States 
  • What cultural achievements is the tribe known for? 
  • Find an example of how the tribe has exercised self-government within the past few years. How did this benefit the common good of the tribe? 

Students may use the following resources to start their research. 

Chitimacha Tribe 

Coushatta Tribe 

Jena Band of Choctaw 

Tunica-Biloxi Tribe