What role has Indian gaming played in the reaffirmation of Native American sovereignty?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Indian gaming has simultaneously helped to reaffirm the sovereignty of Native American tribes and to limit it to some degree.

Beginning with the case of California v. Cabazon Band, gaming has been used to reaffirm tribal sovereignty.  In that case, the Supreme Court essentially ruled that states could not regulate gambling on Native American lands.  This seemed to be a strong affirmation of tribal sovereignty.

However, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act has muddied this to some degree.  It has set out the rule that the tribes and the states must negotiate compacts with one another to regulate Indian gaming.  Neither side can simply impose its will on the other.  This had led to a situation where sovereignty is shared.  The states cannot unilaterally impose regulations on the Indian casinos, but the tribes cannot simply do whatever they want without entering into a compact with the state.  This means that neither tribe nor state is truly sovereign.