Seemingly unknown to many people, there exists a different legal system within Western North Carolina besides the Federal and State legal systems. This legal system is a different form of jurisdiction known as Indian law. Locally, the Cherokee Tribal Court enforces indian law, which is a legal system governed by the Cherokee Nation. This legal system is a combination of Federal, state, and tribal codes.

While many of the legal proceedings are similar to the other judicial systems, there are some glaring differences, complex procedures, and significantly different judgments or punishments than the typical United States judicial system. Due to the complexity and differences from the traditional Federal and state systems, it is critical to understand how to approach your case and whether you should retain representation to help you with your case.

Throughout the United States, there are over 55 million acres of land that are considered Indian land. This land could be anything from Indian reservations to casinos operated by Indian tribes. Locally, this can be seen near Asheville in Cherokee, N.C., where there is both an Indian reservation and Harrah’s Cherokee casino. This land is run by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and covers almost 57,000 acres of land in and around Western North Carolina.

On this land, a special legal system has been developed over a period of 200 years. Originally, the Cherokees established their own court system in the 1820s. As time progressed however, this system was abandoned for the more modern Cherokee Court system, which was founded in 1980. The Cherokee court works under the Cherokee nation’s own government, with executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Similar to the United States government, the legislative branch (called the Tribal Council) passes laws and ordinances, while the judicial branch (run by the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Court) enforces them. Primarily, the Cherokee Court’s job is to judge criminal acts and settle various civil matters. The Cherokee Code is listed in it’s entirety here.

Criminal Law

Unlike criminal charges elsewhere throughout the state of North Carolina, a criminal offense committed on the land of the Cherokee Nation can cause the defendant to be charged in Federal court, state court, or Indian court. This is due to the fact that each different judicial system has different sets of exclusive jurisdiction over various crimes. This produces a wide variety of outcomes and potential punishments that a person can face for a criminal charge. Because of this, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney at Minick Law who is able to understand what jurisdiction and set of laws will govern your case.

Personal Injury

Personal injury cases are also handled different in Indian jurisdiction. Although personal injury cases can cover anything from car accidents to malpractice lawsuits, a personal injury case that occurs under Indian jurisdiction can be determined completely differently due to the fact that there may be Federal, state, or Indian jurisdiction. Additionally, in certain situations, there may be additional legal issues regarding personal injury claims due to different forms of liability or sovereign immunity recognized in Indian jurisdictions.


If you have a case or a charge that occurred on Indian land or under Indian jurisdiction, you may have a difficult time navigating the confusing legal systems and jurisdictions that may apply. Because of this, don’t hesitate to Contact Us at Minick Law for a free consultation on your case.

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