The Shoalwater Bay Constitution

In the Shoalwater Bay Constitution, section six under Powers of the General Council (a) it says, “The Tribal Council, all Tribal officers and agents, and all subordinate Tribal organizations shall be required to obtain the approval of the General Council prior to taking any action with re­­gard to these powers.”

Directly under point (a), the Constitution explains what is meant by these General Council powers. Under point one in this section, it states, “To relinquish any area of Tribal jurisdiction to any government, person, organization, or agency, whether public or private.” As a caveat, agreements between police departments to enforce the law, like the one between the Pacific County Sheriff’s department and the Shoalwater Bay Police department, although they do need Council approval, do not require a General Council vote. 

In the same way that many tribal Constitutions have protected their sovereign rights, checks were put in place because tribes worried about giving State governments too much power over them. Such apprehension against State control were borne out in the recent contract.

Under point twelve of the WSP contract it requires the Shoalwater Bay Tribe to provide access to any, “employee or agent of the State of Washington or the United States of America for the purpose of inspecting the Purchaser’s place of business and its records . . . statement of its organization’s structure, tax status, capabilities and performance.”

Frame taken from point twelve of Washington State Patrol contract with the Shoalwater Bay Tribe.

If the U.S. Government chooses to exercise that control, in effect the signers of the contract, on behalf of the Shoalwater Bay Tribe, Tribal Council, and General Council, agreed to allow a system of invasive oversight by the U.S. Government for the next six years.

For many of the same reasons that our ancestors had adopted Constitutional checks and balances, Tribal Council’s direct experience with the fall out of the State contract served to strengthen their resolve to prevent it from happening again. To meet this challenge, Council quickly strengthened internal policy, even extending prohibitions against public disclosure to low-level business contracts. In addition, Council promised to implement a new legal ordinance (or policy) titled: Tribal Privacy Plan.