The Pueblo of Sandia, like all federally recognized tribes, is a sovereign nation. Indian Nations are distinct political communities, having territorial boundaries, within which their authority is exclusive, and having a right to all the lands within those boundaries, which is not only acknowledged but guaranteed by the United States. (Worcester v. Georgia, 6 Pet. 515, 557, 8L. Ed. 483, 499 1832). Tribal sovereignty is guaranteed by treaties between Indian Nations and the US government. It is important to note that these treaties do not grant rights from the US government to Indian Nations, but rather from Indian Nations to the US government.
Sandia Pueblo’s government is similar to that of a state government in terms of structure and authority. Like all governments, Sandia Pueblo has certain rights and responsibilities. It can levy taxes on sales of goods and services within the reservation boundaries. It develops and enforces its own laws, planning and zoning regulations, building codes, etc. It provides for education, law enforcement, judicial and municipal services to all residents on the reservation. There is a Tribal Council that serves a function similar to a state’s house or senate. The Council is responsible for passing laws and resolutions, overseeing business operations, deciding on capital improvement projects and economic development initiatives. A Governor, Lt. Governor, Warchief, and Lt. Warchief are appointed for annual terms according to Sandia’s cultural tradition. Each man can be appointed to consecutive terms. The Governor and Warchief will become Tribal Council members for life. The Warchief and Lt. Warchief are responsible for all religious activities held in the Pueblo. The Governor oversees day to day government operations, while the Lt. Governor is the Tribal Court Judge.
Like all governments, Sandia Pueblo must fund the services it offers to its residents. Although Sandia Pueblo is a taxing authority, there is not a large enough tax base to support the services it provides. Sandia Pueblo, along with all local governments, receives limited federal monies for various programs. Most state governments operate business enterprises and many offer gaming in the form of lotteries, etc.. It is income from various enterprises, especially gaming income, that makes it possible for Sandia Pueblo to fund its government and social programs. The positive impact of gaming revenue is allowing Sandia Pueblo to address some long-standing deficiencies, especially social services and infrastructure needs.