Indian Civil Rights Act

The U.S. Bill of Rights does not apply to actions of tribal governments. The federal government enacted the Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA) in 1965 to apply most of the provisions of the Bill of Rights to Tribes. It has been amended twice since 1968 - both times around the rights of tribal governments to criminally prosecute and sentence individuals.  

For information about due process in Indian Country, see this guide from

The full text of ICRA is available online. 

Matthew L.M. Fletcher, a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, wrote an article in the Michigan State Law Review discussing Due Process and Equal Protection in Michigan Anishinaabe Courts. The article explains how Tribal governments might interpret ICRA's Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses in light of Tribal customs. 

Contact MILS

If you need additional assistance, please contact MILS at 231-947-0122.

What rights are protected under ICRA?

No Indian tribe in exercising powers of self-government shall infringe on the following rights—

Can a Tribal Court criminally sentence an individual to longer than 1 year? 

Yes. The ICRA was amended to add additional protections for anyone facing longer than 1 year in jail. 25 USC 1302

Can I file a case in federal court if I think my rights were violated by a Tribe?

Yes. However, generally, federal courts will only hear Habeas cases. 25 USC 1303. You can seek a “writ of habeas corpus” challenging your detention when an order of a tribe has you held in jail or otherwise detained. You must first exhaust all remedies available through tribal court, including tribal court appeals, unless it would be futile to do so OR irreparable injury would result from the delay.

Can I file a case in Tribal Court?

Yes. However the procedures in each tribal jurisdiction are different and the tribe might assert sovereign immunity from suit. This means you cannot sue the government without its consent.