chapter  1
Introduction: Sovereignty
ByErin Hogan Fouberg
Pages 20

At first contact, Europeans, and later, the United States recognized the sovereignty of American Indians. Under international law, national sovereignty is inherent, and the sovereign is the ultimate authority. However, over whom and over what territory a nation has sovereignty depends on its jurisdiction. Because nations have differing conceptualizations of territory and kinship, there are, globally, different notions of how sovereignty is manifested in a jurisdiction. The jurisdiction of sovereignty is generally operationalized in a europeanized form today. The European ideal of sovereignty and its jurisdiction is the nation-state, one exclusive nation of people fitting within one exclusive territory of a state. While the nation-state concept is a myth, today it is the myth upon which debates of sovereignty and jurisdiction are predicated. 1 Scholars of American Indian, Asian, and African studies have shown that the concept of sovereignty existed in various regions of the world prior to European colonialism. 2 In these regions, people did not always define the exercise of jurisdiction in the exclusive ways of the Europeans. In the northern Great Plains, for example, American Indian territoriality was often exclusive between two warring tribes, but was more frequently overlapping between tribes with kinship ties. 3