Nisqually Tribe seeks approval to handle own building permitting


Well-known member
Jul 9, 2023
The Nisqually Tribe in Washington State have expressed their desire to handle their building permits on tribally-owned land, this is a move that could significantly change the building permit process for certain areas. As discussed with the Board of County Commissioners, this development stems from the tribe's establishment of its own buildings department which is capable of managing permits and conducting inspections.

Having its own permitting manager and building inspector, the tribe is looking to apply this autonomy to a 60-acre property near Lake Saint Clair. This is where they are planning to build an arena, horse ranch, barns and other structures.

If this change is approved, it would mean that for projects on Nisqually tribal land, the permitting process would be overseen by the tribe itself, rather than county authorities. This would give the possibility to streamline procedures for those building on tribal lands but would also require careful consideration of infrastructure and environmental impacts.

You can see more details on this situation that is evolving here
Thurston County, Washington, United States
I am for this 100%. Native Americans deserve to have some autonomy with their homes and especially the lands they own. I think it makes perfect sense to have the tribe be the one to issue permits for their own needs. And I know they would have the lands best interest in mind, because I'm sure they care a lot about the land they own.
That's what most Indian tribes have been known for: Stewards of the land.

Even if the self-oversight allows for buildings and land use to be a bit different from usual, that's not a bad thing.
The Nisqually Tribe's desire to handle building permits on their own land in Washington State is a significant move that could change how construction projects are managed. I think granting autonomy to tribes for managing building permits aligns with principles of self-governance and recognizes the tribal authority over their lands. However, it's crucial to balance this autonomy with environmental impacts. Finding this balance is essential to support the tribe's autonomy while safeguarding the surrounding environment.
I definitely support the Nisqually's right to self-governance. What's unclear to me, though, is how the County has authority over their building requirements in the first place. My understanding is that state/local laws don't apply to federally recognized tribes (like the Nisqually) and that these tribes are only subject to federal laws and laws they make/administer themselves.

According to information on the Bureau of Indian Affairs website:

Because the Constitution vested the Legislative Branch with plenary power over Indian Affairs, states have no authority over tribal governments unless expressly authorized by Congress...Furthermore, federally recognized tribes possess both the right and the authority to regulate activities on their lands independently from state government control. They can enact and enforce stricter or more lenient laws and regulations than those of the surrounding or neighboring state(s) wherein they are located.


Tribes, therefore, possess the right to form their own governments; to make and enforce laws, both civil and criminal; to tax; to establish and determine membership (i.e., tribal citizenship); to license and regulate activities within their jurisdiction; to zone; and to exclude persons from tribal lands.

I noticed the article characterizes the Nisqually as wanting to administer building permitting on as "tribally-owned" land, not "reservation land," which I think is the important distinction here. It sounds like the Nisqually's building department already handles permitting on reservation land and that they're now seeking to extend this authority to tribally-owned properties located outside the reservation, but the article isn't clear about this detail.