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1787: Congress can regulate trade with Indian tribes

The Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, permits Congress to make all laws pertaining to Indian trade. (“The Congress shall have power to…regulate commerce with foreign nations, among several states, and with the Indian tribes…”) Congress expands its powers and duties beyond Indian trade, enacting other laws, including regulation of treaty making and the sale of Indian lands, that affect the tribes.

The U.S. Constitution also establishes the treaty-making powers of the Senate, with a two-thirds vote and the signature of the President. These acts become the law of the land, although states, counties, and towns often create their own laws and agreements with American Indian nations. Federal recognition of American Indian tribes derives from the relationship between tribes and the U.S., originally established by the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

Federal-Tribal Relations
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