Source: (2001) American Indian Law Review. 26(2): 177-201.

In the United States, trifederalism refers to the existence and interaction of three kinds of constitutionally recognized limited sovereigns – namely, national, state, and Indian tribal governments. These three governments continually adjust their spheres of authority in light of relatively recent growth in the complexity and effectiveness of tribal courts. In this article, Carol Tebben explores aspects of trifederalism in terms of state and tribal courts in Wisconsin, particularly with respect to a case called Teague v. Bad River Band. The case involved the judicial intersection of two sovereign governments: the State of Wisconsin and the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians. (There are eleven sovereign tribal governments in Wisconsin.) State courts and the tribal court ruled in opposition to each other with respect to the plaintiff (Teague) and defendant (Bad River Band) in the case. As Tebben follows the case through the appeal process to the state Supreme Court, she demonstrates how the Supreme Court’s decision highlights the ongoing interaction of sovereignty issues in Wisconsin state courts and tribal courts. The case also manifests how the decision itself affects the dynamics of this interaction.