What is Sovereignty?

Native American history exists in two distinct eras: Our centuries of co-existence with the land where we lived for thousands of years; and the mistreatment, injustice and violence done to us with the arrival of non-native colonizers.

Throughout U.S. history, federal and state government officials contrived doctrines to support the illegal and immoral contention that tribes had no legal or civil rights to their own ancestral lands.Like other tribes across the United States and in California, the Koi Nation’s long history of peaceful existence fell victim to broken promises, broken treaties and broken dreams.

Our ancestors never laid claim to the land they lived on, as did arriving colonizers. We chose instead to give thanks to the creator, and to the earth and sky, for the bounty of food, shelter and other basic amenities they provided. This difference was used against us by a legal system imposed on us by force by the colonizers, and as a result we became landless.

Nonetheless, the lands upon which our ancestors lived were our home, where we as a tribe governed ourselves and cared for our people.The loss of our ancestral lands stripped from us our ability to be self-reliant, to protect our culture and traditions, and even to know and protect the places where our ancestors were buried.

In recent decades, the federal government has recognized these truths, acknowledged the inherent right of tribal sovereignty,and has begun to rectify its shameful record of mistreatment against native tribes.

Federally recognized tribes have the inherent sovereign right to live on their own land, to govern their own affairs and people without interference, and to establish and pursue economic policies and activities that create self-reliance and opportunity for their people.

As a federally recognized Native American tribe, whose status was reaffirmed in a federal court decision in 2019, the Koi Nation has inherent sovereignty and the rights that accompany it. This carries great meaning and symbolism for us, and we guard it as closely as our tribe’s culture and tradition. Our inherent sovereignty is the foundation for our efforts to obtain land upon which we can re-establish the living relationship between our people and the land and exercise our rights to independent governance and economic self-reliance.