Frequently Asked Questions of Public Law 280:

1. What is Public Law 280?

Public Law 280 is a federal statute enacted by Congress in 1953.  It enabled states to assume criminal, as well as civil, jurisdiction in matters involving Indians as litigants on reservation land.  Previous to the enactment of Public Law 280, these matters were dealt with in either tribal and/or federal court.  Essentially, Public Law 280 was an attempt by the federal government to reduce its role in Indian affairs.

2. What states assumed jurisdiction over Indian reservations through Public Law 280?

Enumerated in Public Law 280 were six states which were obligated to assume jurisdiction from the outset of the law: Alaska, California, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, and Wisconsin. States that have assumed at least some jurisdiction since the enactment of Public Law 280 include: Nevada, South Dakota, Washington, Florida, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Arizona, Iowa, and Utah.

3. Why do some oppose Public Law 280?

Many argue that because Public Law 280 was initially enacted without the consent of the Indians affected it is inherently immoral.  Although Public Law 280 was amended in 1968 requiring the consent of the tribe, consent was not required for states that had assumed jurisdiction up to 1968.  Others argue that the enactment of the law was a response to the growing fervor surrounding assimilation due to the nascent Cold War.  Still others argue it was a purely economic move on the part of the federal government.  They argue that involvement in Indian affairs was a financial burden the federal government did not want to bear. Therefore, the federal government passed the buck to the states.

For further on-line information on PL 280, see Tribal Institute and Pechanga Gaming Webpage

Related Indian Law Sites:    Senate Committee on Indian Affairs  | Indian Law