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>>> The United States contains over 500 quasi-independent nations. Each federally recognized Native American tribe (there are 567 of them) has its own government, laws, courts, etc., and almost every one of them has a constitution, articles of incorporation, or a similar founding document. These important documents govern 1.9 million people and indirectly affect many millions of non-indigenous Americans, yet they've been scattered far and wide, and most of them have never been posted online.

In late 2014, Kevin R. Kemper - a professor, journalist, and advocate for Native American rights - filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, asking for copies of all current and past founding documents for the tribes of the United States. The BIA claimed it couldn't find a single document at its headquarters. This, despite the fact that the agency is required by law to have these documents. Kemper sued the BIA's parent, the Department of Interior, and lo and behold, in June 2016 they turned over the constitutions for the vast majority of tribes.

The release contains 612 documents covering 440 tribes (this is a rough estimate). The discrepancy comes from the fact that there are multiple, superseded constitutions for some tribes, and some of the PDFs are amendments to a given tribe's constitution. And because there are 567 tribes in the US, the ~440 figure means that not all tribes are represented.

The Memory Hole 2 obtained these documents through a "piggyback request" on Kemper's groundbreaking FOIA request. We have placed all the documents on the Internet Archive, divided into geographical regions. (Note that the file names and division into folders are exactly as the BIA sent them.)

News article: Norman man wins tribal records lawsuit

Related resources:

Administrative processing materials from Kemper's FOIA request [PDF]

Tribal Law Gateway

Native American Constitution and Law Digitization Project

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