The tribal government has full sovereignty over the reservation, subject only to the federal government.
The tribal government has full sovereignty over the reservation, subject only to the federal government. Red Lake, because of its unique status is often referred to as a "closed" reservation. Because the land is held in common, few non-members live at Red Lake. The Tribe has the right to limit who can visit or live on the reservation. The Red Lake Nation is exempt from Public Law 280, consequently the state courts or government have no jurisdiction at Red Lake. Laws are made by the Tribal Council and enforced by the Tribal Council and Federal Courts.
In 1918, the Red Lake General Council Constitution was established. A revised Constitution and By-laws were adopted by the members of Red Lake Nation in 1958. The first secret ballot election of Tribal Government followed in 1959.
An 11 member Tribal Council, consisting of three officers elected at large and eight council members, two from each of the four communities, governs the Red Lake Band. Seven Hereditary Chiefs, descendents from those who negotiated the 1889 Land Agreement, serve for life in an advisory capacity to the Tribal Council. In 1997, the Tribe began administering its own programs under a Self-Governance Contract with the BIA. Red Lake is not a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.