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Jurisdictional Overlaps on Tribal Reservations in the Continental United States

Authors: Jason Scully*, , Margo Hill, Eastern Washington University, Elias Sandoval-Clarimon, Eastern Washington University, Zachary Becker, Eastern Washington University, Landon C. Baldwin, Eastern Washington University
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: Tribal, Governmental Relationships
Session Type: Poster
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Advocates working with tribal communities often claim that relationships between those communities and all levels of government (from local to the federal, as well as special districts such as school districts and emergency response districts) are fraught by the ways in which government boundaries cut through tribal land. Dividing reservations thusly has the potential to weaken the sovereignty of tribal lands by splitting votes of reservation residents into two or more districts, creating uneven levels of service across the same tribal land, and forcing tribal governments to negotiate with multiple jurisdictions over the same matter. This poster presents an analysis of legislative and congressional boundaries in relation to Federally Recognized tribal reservation boundaries.

We used Esri’s ArcMap Overlay Toolset to analyze the overlap between the 397 Federally Recognized American Indian reservation areas and the 435 congressional and 6,764 legislative districts in the continental United States. When reservations were split among two or more districts and the smaller portion accounted for 1% or less of the reservation, visual inspection of the split was conducted to determine if the split was an artifact of inaccurate border mapping or represented a legitimate division of land. Two researchers independently assessed each split. Of the 397 reservations, 271 (68.3%) were inside only one congressional district; 21.4% were in two; 6.8% were in three; 1.5% were in four; 1.0% were in five; and another 1.0% were in six.

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