Native Americans for Kids
What is an Indian reservation?
An Indian reservation is land that is set aside for Native Americans by the United States government.
What are the laws on a reservation?
Reservations are governed by the local Native American government. The tribe has its own laws, police, and court system. Federal laws (laws of the U.S. government) do apply on reservations, but state laws do not.
Navajo Police Chevrolet Tahoe
This is a pretty complicated question. While Indian reservations are a part of the United States, they are, in some ways, considered their own nations with their own governments. They deal with the United States government on a Nation-to-Nation level. At the same time, they must observe federal laws.
Who lives on reservations?
The majority of the people living on a reservation are Native Americans who belong to the local tribe. As of 2012, there were around 1 million Native Americans living on reservations. This was less than half of the estimated 2.5 million Native Americans that live in the United States.
How many reservations are there?
There are around 326 Indian reservations in the United States. They make up a total land area of 56.2 million acres. This sounds like a lot, but it is only around 2.3% of the entire country.
The largest of the reservations is the Navajo Nation Reservation. It takes up 16 million acres of land in Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. A lot of reservations are much smaller. The smallest reservation preserves the cemetery of the Pit River Tribe. It is just over 1 acre.
Treaties, Laws, and Relocation
Many reservations were created through various treaties between the U.S. government and local tribes. Often the U.S. government broke with treaties and took land they had earlier promised to Native Americans. In the 1800s, many eastern tribes were forced to relocate to lands in Oklahoma.
In the 1900s, new laws were passed to help protect the lands and the rights of Native Americans. These included the Indian Citizen Act, the Indian Reorganization Act, and the Indian Civil Rights Act.
Cherokee Indian Reservation Sign
Life on a Reservation Today
Life on an Indian reservation today can be very difficult. Many of the people living on reservations live in poverty. There is high unemployment, poor living conditions, and drug abuse. Many tribes have tried to improve the local economy by building casinos as a tourist destination.
Preserving Native American Culture
Much of traditional Native American culture has been lost over the years. However, the people living on many reservations do a lot to help preserve and renew the Indian way of life. Original arts and crafts are still created on many reservations. Other important areas of the culture that are preserved include Native American languages, ceremonies, dances, and traditional stories.
Interesting Facts about Native American Reservations
- Not every tribe recognized by the U.S. government has its own reservation.
- The land set aside for reservations may or may not be part of the land where the tribe originally lived.
- There are 566 federally recognized tribes.
- Around 90,000 Native American families are either homeless or are considered "under-housed."
- There are 25 states that have reservations. California has the most reservations with 121.
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