Tony Larvie, chief of police for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Crow Agency office  (courtesy billingsgazette.com)

OK, since I live in Wyoming and am reasonably close to the Crow Reservation, I’m going to dispel some myths for people here.

1. You should NEVER assume that state law applies on a res. NEVER. The reservations are their own sovereign nations, and they are not bound to recognize state laws except where they agree to do so. Getting pulled over and whipping out a CCW issued by a state (whether MT or another state) when you’re on a back road or reservation property might not get you the results you want . . .

Good luck getting a written list of the state statutes and regulations to which they agree. NEVER assume your CCW is worth the paper or plastic on which it is printed when you’re within a res.

2. Almost all legal issues you might run into on a res will not be heard in any state court. You’ll be dealing with either the reservation court, the BIA or the FBI & DOJ. Some tribes will defer to the FBI/DOJ on big felonies (rape, murder, major arson, etc). Getting popped for having a handgun where you’re not supposed to is one the tribal police will likely handle, because it needs little in the way of forensics and evidence from labs.

3. NEVER assume you’ll have cell coverage on a res in the west. Many of these reservations are huge tracts of land, with mountainous features that create huge dead areas. In the Pryor area, most carriers don’t work. Been there, seen that. Verizon sorta-kinda does. AT&T is marginal, at best, and several other urban carriers are worthless.

There are huge areas of the west where most urban carriers (Spring, T-Mobile, etc) don’t work, AT&T is marginal and Verizon is your best bet, but is also marginal. Central Nevada, central Utah, southwest Wyoming, northeast Wyoming, north central New Mexico, eastern Colorado, eastern Idaho, central Montana, western Montana, and mountain areas in any/all of the above – will have large dead areas, depending on your carrier. Assuming that you (or someone stranded) will have cell service is a foolish bet. I’ll take that bet for even money when I see you driving an urban vehicle in any of the above areas.

4. When you’re on a res, behave yourself. Some reservations ban the importation of alcohol – don’t be caught with a six-pack. Don’t be smoking pot and getting drunk on a res if you don’t live there or have family that lives there. Some reservations are huge open range areas. This means their livestock are not fenced in – they must be fenced out of whatever area you want them kept out of. This means that you can run into horses, cows, sheep, goats, etc on a road with a posted 65 to 70 MPH speed limit. Hitting a cow at 55+ MPH is a bad idea, mmmmkay? It’s a lethal idea to hit a horse at 55+ MPH, even in a one-ton pickup. They tend to come up and over the hood in lethal manner. Hitting livestock at night is a much worse idea.

Now, if you hit livestock on a res, you’re going to have to pay for it. I don’t give a rat’s rear end what happened to your car. No one but you is going to help pay for what happened to your car in any open range area in the west, and this is doubly true on a res. When you see a sign that says “open range,” you’d better put down your Big Gulp, cell phone, etc and start paying attention.

If you hit livestock: You’re in another legal system than the state or federal law you’re used to. You’d better pay up, or otherwise they can make a much larger deal about the issue if they wish. Cows start at about $1K, and horses start at $3K and go up.

So, let’s sum up: If you get pulled over on a res, and you’re not an enrolled member of the tribe, here’s what to do:

1. Be polite.
2. Admit nothing.
3. Don’t go spouting law from “outside.”
4. If you need a lawyer, get one who is familiar with the tribal laws & regulations. I don’t care if you’re a lawyer who graduated at the top of Harvard/Yale law school class. Your knowledge is worth SFA on the res. You’re not in Kansas any more, Dorothy.

If you’re packing a handgun, stay on the interstates through reservations. The law you’ll run into there will likely be the surrounding state highway patrol. If you’re going to get on the back roads inside a reservation, you need to learn the tribal law. Most of the tribes in the west have very different and very restrictive laws on carrying handguns, knives, etc. On the Crow res, I’ll pull out my carry piece and make sure it is either visible, or locked up.

Here’s the Crow Tribal laws pertaining to weapons:

http://www.indianlaw.mt.gov/content/crow/codes/title_08b.pdf

Search for “8B-8-301″ and start reading. Then back up and read the rest of the codes. NB how minor the penalties are for rape, murder, etc. NB that the penalty is the same for murder as for rustling cattle.

Now, with respect to the perp in the original article: He’s a legal immigrant (according to DHS), and is from Worland, WY. Worland is a farming town of about 4500 people. The local press is notable for interviewing people who know the perp, and many of those people are putting distance between the perp and themselves. This is telling.

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44 Responses to Dyspeptic Gunsmith: Gun Rights on Indian Reservations

  1. The original article didn’t say anything about natives, reservations or anything else about the subject. What have you been smoking in your peace pipe?

    • The original article mentioned that the woman who was murdered told her daughter in their Native American language to run. That’s about all the writer mentioned about the race of the victims, however.

    • This

      Does the NFA apply to reservations? I know out there they kinda pick and choose what they like to enforce (as far as local regs) but how about one of the stupid regs?

  2. “The local press is notable for interviewing people who know the perp, and many of those people are putting distance between the perp and themselves. This is telling.”

    What does it tell, that people don’t want to be publicly associated with known murderers?

  3. Thanks for a good summary. It applies to the Mescalero Apache of South Central NM too. Reservation Police regularly run radar, and have NO tolerance for speeders or any substance abuse. They have a cow camp 19 miles through the mountains and forests. A passed out drunk is taken there and left on the ground. They may withdraw and die, or they may wake up, get on a horse and earn a meal and indoors bed. Too brutal for most, so the addicted Native Americans migrate to off res cities and towns. Warning signs should be posted that you are leaving The US and are now at the mercy of the peoples we stole the country from.

    • “stole” is so strong. How about “took” or even “won”? We did win the Indian Wars, did we not? That was long ago and now is now. Past time to have one country without all these “micro countries” within our borders.

    • Oh please. So it’s fine for the Sioux to wipe out Pawnees and take their land (and women) but if pale skins do it it’s a tragedy? Historically Americans treatment of the Indians doesn’t even rate compared to other mass migrations or expanding Empires. The fact is ‘we’ shouldn’t have broken treaties with the Indians….we shouldn’t have ever made the treaties in the first place. The cruelest twist of all is the subsidizing of misery and failure that the US Govt conducts now on ‘reservations’.

      • Nailed it. If you want to know what life was like for the sainted “original Americans” before the eeevil white Europeans arrived, read “War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage” by Lawrence H. Keeley. There are NO tribes currently occupying land anywhere in the American continent that they did not take from some other tribe, long before the Europeans arrived. And the famed “Plains Horse Cultures”? Weren’t any such cultures before the Spaniards arrived, because the horse was extinct in the Americas. The Sioux. Comanche, Pawnee and other plains tribes didn’t get horses until the early 1700s.

        Bottom line: every group of people on earth is living on land they took from a weaker tribe or other group. The way the “progressives” are taking America, we will eventually join the cultural losers.

    • The lesson I learned in SD is don’t stop on the Res.

      I did a lot of contract work which required frequent trips to Rosebud and Pine Ridge, which is a third world country smack dab in the middle of the US. Tribal police are notorious for pulling over non-native drivers (identified driving anything that isn’t a falling apart, rusted out jalopy) and taking everything that have. The tribe abuses civil asset forfeiture laws against white people because they consider it “justice” to steal from the white man. If you are white and get stopped on the Res, you are going to spend the night in jail and lose all of your stuff. You can sue to get it back, but in reality that will never happen.

      Fortunately, there isn’t much in the way of LEO backup on the Res, they don’t have roadblocks or spike strips. Just keep going. Don’t stop. Get back to the US and call your lawyer. Hell, if you know your’e gonna be on the res, take off your license plate and slap an expired dealer plate on the window. Justice doesn’t exist on the Res if you’re white.

  4. So, your saying that if you’re interested in a native american girl, she may have huge
    tracts of land?

      • Listen, lad. I’ve built this kingdom up from nothing. When
        I started here, all there was was swamp. All the kings said I was daft
        to build a castle in a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show
        ’em. It sank into the swamp. So, I built a second one. That sank into the
        swamp. So I built a third one. That burned down, fell over, then sank
        into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. An’ that’s what your gonna
        get, lad — the strongest castle in these islands.

  5. Obligatory disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer…so this isn’t legal advice. Do the research yourself and contact an attorney if you want that.

    Tribal laws ONLY apply to members of that tribe who live on that reservation. Tribes have ZERO criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians or Indians of other tribes…and with good reason…many of their systems lack the basic protections US courts do(right to counsel, etc)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliphant_v._Suquamish_Indian_Tribe

    If you are breaking STATE Law(say carrying a Glock with 17 round mag loaded with hollow points on a Res in NJ) they can turn you over to State authorities if they have a working agreement to do so.

    If you aren’t breaking State Law concerning concealed carry the worst they can do is take your gun, hold you for a little bit, then kick you off the Res or call the local cops to take you off. Of course, you probably don’t wanna spend the night in an Indian Jail nor have to go to Tribal court to get your gun back… as far as jail time or a criminal record it won’t happen. They have no authority to do it.

    As the OP said….Res can be a very isolated place…not a lot of cameras or witnesses….so best not to screw around.

    further reading

    http://blog.cheaperthandirt.com/lawyer-tribal-lands-guns/

    http://www.handgunlaw.us/documents/tribal_law_ccw.pdf

    • “Tribal laws ONLY apply to members of that tribe who live on that reservation. Tribes have ZERO criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians or Indians of other tribes”

      Try fishing on the Reservation side of Lake Roosevelt without a Collville Tribal license.

    • rdk, Enjoy fantasyland, because that’s the insane ‘shroom trip you’re on.

      If you’re on the res, especially as a white dude visiting the native GF’s relatives, lemme hip ya to what law applies – theirs. Naive thinking like this is why they lost their land to us white folks, and they’re just fine attempting to get even for that.

      Spout your platitudes all you want, if you’re lucky you’ll be beaten within an inch of your life. Generally, though, you’ll just “disappear” on the res. Despite my limited years in the desert SW, I’ve been in more draw-downs there than in the STL. Only once with illegal Mexicans, three times with fine tribal types who didn’t like my pale face on the res, especially with one of ‘their’ women. I was fortunate to have been able to call them, but it was only on bluster and dropped names that it wasn’t a gunfight. Or execution (of me).

  6. There are huge areas of the west where most urban carriers (Spring, T-Mobile, etc) don’t work, AT&T is marginal and Verizon is your best bet, but is also marginal. I can think of more than a few huge rural areas of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana where this is more applicable than what you might think.

  7. A lot of these Native Americans are about as native as my wife is…who actually is part Cherokee; she and her family are just not much of Reservation Injuns.

    • Yeah, one of the local tribes in RI-MA didn’t qualify for Federal recognition based on actual ethnicity, but they were able to get special legislation passed in Congress that recognized the tribe. I wonder what that cost.

      Every “member” is actually African-American or Cape Verdean.

  8. I live on a reservation in Montana. None of what you posted here applies on this reservation. You should never assume all reservations are the same, or even most.

    • I live on the Flathead reservation in Montana and find that it is one of the most gun friendly places I know. I open carry all the time and have never once been questioned. If anything I think the tribal cops are easier to deal with than the highway patrol. I agree, nothing in this article applies.

  9. Fourteen crimes committed on the res are under Federal jurisdiction. These are the most serious crimes, like murder, kidnapping, rape etc.

    Under the latest re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act, domestic battery on the res by a non-Indian man against an Indian woman is under tribal jurisdiction, just like intra-Indian domestic battery or battery by an Indian man against a non-Indian woman. Other crimes on the res are under state or tribal jurisdiction, depending on the nationality of the perpetrator and maybe other factors.

    If you can believe it, civil jurisdiction is way more complicated.

  10. Back in the early 90’s, I got caught packing by security in a reservation casino.
    The security guards were not tribal and they politely but firmly informed me that I would be much healthier for the rest of my life if I stored my pistol in my car.
    I even got a nice escort out to the car.
    Lesson learned

  11. Hmmm, one Constitution and two governments, what a great country this is? I guess it beats most, so much B/S. Watch your as _ when you drive a block or two you could be breaking a law! All B/S. Be careful out there and watch you six.

    • Most Indian Tribal reservations are sovereign territory of tha tribe. That means they make all the laws, and enforce them the way they choose. The Tohono O’odham reservation in southern Arizona won’t even allow the federal government to build a border fence through there because the tribal land extends from the US into Mexico.

  12. 1. Indian law’s don’t apply on state or federal highways.

    2. They are not “sovereign land”. This stupidity is repeated over and over. ALL federal law applies on indian reservations. I know, I’ve arrested people on this “sovereign” land.

    3. Your mileage varies on state law, read Public Law 280 as a starting point.

    • I was in a single-vehicle wreck in a reservation. Tribal and state cops showed up. The state cop noted that the vehicle had crossed and left the right-of-way, so the tribe had jurisdiction. The tribal officer looked at the path, pointed out that nothing belonging to the tribe was damaged, so the tribe wasn’t interested — but they would call a truck to get it off their land. So we got towed by a tribal company to the edge of the reservation, where the driver stopped and pulled out a clip board: getting towed off the reservation was free, for the rest it was a contract. Happily, they were AAA affiliated.
      The wild thing was that since he found us on tribal land, the statie decided he wasn’t going to do anything except warn us not to break any more of the state’s trees!

    • When you’re not one of the federal donut-mucher brigades, the Tribal Police will tell you that it is sovereign land.

      Now, what’s a non-member of the tribe supposed to do? Start running their mouth and lecturing the tribal cop?

      Yea, that’ll usually work out really well.

      This is why people hate cops. You pull “laws” out of your ass whenever you want. All of you, at every level, are guilty of this.

      • “all” cops at “every level” – really? Rather gross generalization, no? While I will admit to working with several that tended to do this, a majority have not. Care to back up this “data”?

      • Hi, Dyspeptic Gunsmith. I’ve been reading your comments for a while. I would like to get in touch with you (on e-mail maybe) and talk about a project. I’m looking for experts from different fields. And I pretty sure you’ll love it! Here’s my contact: http://www.globalbrother.com/?page_id=27 (never mind the website)

    • Jared, You have sweet FA grip on reality. For anyone other than a Fed with radio contact, you don’t stand a chance against the ‘sovereign land’ tribe.

  13. Indian reservations cannot be separate nations independent of the United States. The FBI has jurisdiction on reservations. Ever hear of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)? There is no comparable Bureau of Canadian Affairs or Mexican Affairs because those countries are not subject to the US federal government.

    As far as tribal jurisdiction over non-members is concerned, in which court would a non-member be tried for a serious traffic violation? Tribal court? A nearby county court off the reservation? Federal court?

    Citizenship is irrelevant in criminal cases. An American who commits a crime in a foreign country is tried in that country’s courts. Similarly, a foreigner who commits a crime in the US is tried in American courts.

    I have heard of Tribal police sworn as reserve deputy sheriffs in counties surrounding the reservation. Is this so that they can operate as tribal police when dealing with tribe members and sheriff’s deputies when dealing with non-members or is it just so that they have the authority to back up neighboring sheriff’s departments?

  14. It’s pathetically funny the injun war cry of “we’re an independent nation” until they want taxpayer handouts or it is otherwiseinconvenient. Can flip in 5 seconds and back just as fast. Yanking whitey chain.

    Here in Iowa we REALLY need to make HI30 (to Tama Res/casino) a toll road.

  15. I used to spend a fair amount of time on Ute land when I lived in Alamosa, and occasionally would run into their tribal PD while exploring the backcountry in my Jeep or on my mountainbike. My consistent experience, even as an outsider, was that I’d get more of a fair shake than I would from the average city, State, or Hwy Patrol cop…. tribal PD and the rural sheriff deputies around the reservation never seemed to be looking for an excuse to pull me out of my Jeep and ransack my belongings while hunting for any excuse to make an arrest or write a ticket. The rule I followed was to always remember that I was a guest on THEIR land and act accordingly (which meant absolutely no alcohol and to keep my firearms in the open). Not that I wouldn’t otherwise, but they definitely take a dim view of whites acting ignorantly of their laws. Can’t say that I blame them.

    • “THEIR” land? Seriously? We stole it from them fair and square. Had they fought to the death, this might be different, but they basically gave it to us. This is the US of A, I give not one whit about “tribal sovereignty”, they were conquered long ago.

      By this preposterous standard I can claim land in 3 Euro countries, dating back almost a millenia.

      They lost, get the eff over it.

  16. This article had very very good advice.
    I am from Oklahoma.
    We have a lot of Gambling casinos and everyone is on tribal land.

    I have a carry license issued by my state.
    I have been to several gun license classes and I can tell you the instructors are
    pretty weak in discussing the subject of Prohibited Places, including Federally Prohibited Places.
    One day I was conveying to a friend of where all we could and could not carry our firearms.
    Them it hit me.
    Oklahoma is covered with Indian reservations and I knew they operated on their own laws.

    So when I want to know something, I tend to get the info “straight from the horses mouth”, so to speak. No offense intended.
    So I emailed the Attorney General of one of the predominant tribes to get HIS
    legal advice about non-Indian having a firearm on Indian reservation.

    He said that not all reservations operate the same way.
    But on some of the tribal reservations there is an outer zone and an inner zone.
    The outer zones tend to recognize the state laws which surround them as a mutual
    courtesy.
    There is NO MAP to sow where are all these reservations or especially these inner zones are located.
    You might see a sign when you are passing into these inner zones and you might not.

    However, in the inner zones, all bets are off and it get complicated from there.
    White on White crime goes to the Feds.
    Indian on Indian goes to the Indian tribal court.
    White on Indian or Indian on White person, I could not tell you.

    What I have heard about the Casino land is that they tend not to have a problem
    if you leave your firearm in your vehicle.

    But NEVER EVER bring you firearm INSIDE the casino.
    They serve liquor in those places so even if you aren’t on Indian land,
    carrying a gun into an establishment that serves liquor is a FELONY.

    Some reservations are pretty cool about it, but some reservations I wouldn’t be caught
    dead go to.
    Having a White man come on to certain areas could get you hurt, but
    a White man coming on to certain areas with a gun could get you killed because
    of the Indians memory.
    And tell yo the truth, I don’t blame them.

    • So how many of these Native Americans were alive to remember what happened that long ago? And that justifies shooting an innocent person on the spot? Really?
      Sounds like some blacks who suffer mental anguish over slavery.
      Time for everyone to get a grip.

  17. How can they be their own sovereign nation yet must accept federal laws? Doesn’t sound “sovereign.”

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