Chronological Historical Overview


1979 to the Present - Self-Governance

(This section is currently under revision; completion is expected by Summer 2011)


1979 - The Seminole Tribe of Florida and Gaming.

The Seminoles were the first tribe to enter into the bingo gaming industry. Their endeavors encouraged other tribes to begin gaming enterprises on reservations as a step towards greater economic self-sufficiency.


1980 - United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians.

U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Sioux Indians were entitled to an award of $17.5 million, plus 5% interest per year since 1877, totallying about $106 million in compensation for the unjust taking of the Black Hills and in direct contravention of the Treaty of Fort Laramie. The Sioux have refused to take the money.


1982 - Indian Mineral Development Act.

This Congressional Act encouraged Indian tribes to mine their lands in a manner that would help them become economically self-sufficient.


1982 - Seminole Tribe v. Butterworth Supreme Court decision.

The Court ruled that tribes have the right to create gambling enterprises on their land, even if such facilities are prohibited by the civil statutes of the state. The ruling enabled reservations to establish casinos, as well as gave reservations greater authority for tribal governments to levy taxes, own assets, and create judiciaries.


1987 - California v. CabazonSupreme Court decision.

The Cabazon tribe in Southern California operated a high stakes bingo game and card club on reservation lands. The State claimed that it had the legal authority to prohibit such activities on Indian lands located within California if such activities were prohibited elsewhere in the State. The Court found that states which permitted any form of gambling could not prohibit Indians from operating gambling facilities.


1988 - Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Association Supreme Court decision.

The Yurok Indians and several other Northern California tribes argued that the construction of a 6-mile, two-lane paved road between the towns of Gasquet and Orleans (the G-O Road) and the implementation of a timber management plan would interfere with traditional tribal religions. The Court held that construction of the road did note violate their freedom of religion. Thus far, the road has not been built due to an administrative decision.


1988 - Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).

This Congressional Act affirmed the right of tribes to conduct gaming on Indian lands, but made it subject to tribal/state compact negotiations for certain types of gaming.

  • Class I includes social games solely for prizes of minimal value or traditional forms of Indian gaming engaged in by individuals and is subject to exclusive tribal regulatory jurisdiction.
    Class II includes all forms of bingo and other games similar to bingo (pull-tabs and punch-boards), provided such games are played in the same location as bingo games; non-banking games that are either expressly allowed or not expressly prohibited by state law; and banking card games in existence in Michigan, No. Dakota, Montana, and Washington State on or before May 1, 1988. Class II gaming is subject to tribal regulatory jurisdiction with extensive oversight by the National Indian Gaming Commission(NIGC).
    Class III includes all form of gaming not mentioned in Class I or II - slots, casino games, banking card games, horse and dog racing, pari-mutuel wagering, and jai-alai. Such gaming is lawful on Indian lands only if it has been authorized by a tribal ordinance approved by the chairperson of the NIGC, and if such gaming is permitted by the state for any purpose by any person, organization, or entity, and if is conducted in conformance with a tribal-state compact entered into by the tribe and the state that is in effect. Class III gaming is left to the tribal-state compact negotiation process.

Under IGRA, a tribe must request a state to enter into compact negotiations. After such a request is made, the state is obligated to negotiate in "good faith" to enter into a compact - which must also be approved by the Secretary of the Interior. Because some states have failed to live up to IGRA and "good faith" negotiations, a number of law suits have arisen.

1990 - Native American Languages Act.

This Congressional Act made it US policy to "preserve, protect, and promote the rights and freedom of Native Americans to use, practice, and develop Native American languages." Consequently, the federal government encourages and supports of the use of native languages as a medium of instruction in schools; recognizes the right of Indian tribes to give official status to their languages for conducting their own business; supports proficiency in native languages by granting the same academic credit as for comparable proficiency in a foreign language; and encourages schools to include native languages in the curriculum in the same way as foreign languages. Today, many American Indian languages have been lost; less than 100 languages currently are spoken by Indians.


1990 - Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA).

The Congressional Act is intended to promote Indian artwork and handicraft businesses, reduce foreign an counterfeit product competition, and stop deceptive marketing practices.


1990 - Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act.

This Congressional Act required all institutions that receive federal funds to inventory their collections of Indian human remains and artifacts, make their lists available to Indian tribes, and return any items requested by the tribes.


1990 - Indian Law Enforcement Act.

This Congressional Act created a unified approach to the BIA's provision of law enforcement serives on reservations.


1992 - Foxwoods Casinoof Connecticut.

The Mashantucket Pequots opened the first large casino in the United States.


1993 - Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

This Congressional Act stated that state governments "shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion" except if such exercise of religion conflicts with "a compelling government interest." On June 25, 1997, the US Supreme Court declared RFRA unconstitutional as it applied to the states.


1994 - American Indian Religious Freedom Act, Amendments.

This Congressional Act protected the rights of American Indians to use peyote in traditional religious ceremonies.


1994 - President Clinton's Executive Memorandum, April 29th.

The president stated that he sought "to clarify our responsibility to ensure that the Federal Government operates within a government-to-government relationship with federally recognized Native American tribes. I am strongly committed to building a more effective day-to-day working relationship reflecting respect for the rights of self- government due the sovereign tribal governments."


1996 - National American Indian Heritage Month.

President Clinton declared November of each year to be National American Indian Heritage Month.


1996 - Executive Order, October 21 on Tribal Colleges and Universities.

President Clinton authorized a White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities within the US Department of Education to continue the support and development of tribal colleges into the 21st Century.