Federal, State, and Tribal Governance

Who has governing power in the United States? In the complex system created by the US Constitution, the individual state governments and the federal government bear responsibility for specific matters. This system of different layers of government handling different responsibilities is known as “federalism.”

Although the Constitution aimed to clearly distinguish between federal and state jurisdictions, the two entities have sometimes had overlapping or even conflicting responsibilities. Interwoven into the federalism debate is how American Indian tribal sovereignty factors into the federalism balance between state and national government powers. Over the centuries, the way these jurisdictions interact has evolved, and the US Supreme Court continues to make rulings that shift responsibilities between state, federal, and tribal governments.

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