Only Arizona and New Mexico have more than Montana’s seven Indian reservations occupying over eight million acres of land under the Big Sky. Approximately six percent of Montana’s population identifies itself as Native American. The Crows, Northern Cheyenne, Blackfeet, Chippewa Cree, Confederated Salish, Kootenai, Assiniboine, Sioux, and Gros Ventre are all federally recognized tribes. They represent important cultural traditions and exercise political and economic power in the state.
The great Chief Justice of the United States John Marshall described Indian tribes as “dependent domestic nations." While they are subject to the plenary authority of the federal government, the tribes themselves exercise many aspects of inherent sovereignty along with that jurisdiction expressly recognized by acts of Congress. This includes the power to adjudicate some disputes in tribal court systems and to regulate some activities on their reservations. The status of tribes as dependent domestic nations, the special character of Indian lands and people, the history of relations between the tribes and the United States, and a long series of legal disputes in the courts has produced a complex body of specialized law not well understood by most practitioners.
Moulton Bellingham is an expert in Indian law. In addition to advising clients doing business on Indian reservations, the attorneys in the firm have successfully represented tribal members and nonmembers in federal, state, and tribal courts in both jury and judge trials.