whether a tribe retains inherent sovereignty to govern that subject. 160 It does not resolve the
additional question of whether a tribe has personal jurisdiction over parties who are beyond tribal
limits, 161 let alone over off-reservation children who have no cultural affiliation with that tribe
and are only eligible for membership on account of their ancestry. The South Dakota Supreme
Court seemed to recognize that fact when it noted that the basis of tribal jurisdiction in ICWA
cases is “the child’s relationship with the tribe through residency, domicile, or as a ward of the
tribal court.” 162 In short, the importance of child welfare matters to the longevity of the tribe
does not override the ordinary requirements of personal jurisdiction, or justify employing the
status exception where it would not ordinarily apply.
In In re J.D.M.C., the same court found that tribal judges lacked personal jurisdiction
over a non-Indian father in a child abuse matter that occurred off-reservation, and where neither
he, nor the mother, nor the children, were ever residents of, or domiciled on, the reservation. 163
Given that the father was “a nonresident, non-tribal member who never resided or domiciled on
the reservation,” and who had “not purposefully availed himself to the benefits and protections
of the laws of the . . . reservation,” the court found that the father’s “connections” with the tribe
were “too attenuated to constitute minimum contacts,” and thus the tribe could not exercise
personal jurisdiction consistently with due process of law. 164 This common-sense application of
160 See, e.g., Brendale v. Confederated Tribes & Bands of Yakima Indian Nation, 492 U.S. 408, 425–26 (1989);
161 See Water Wheel Camp Recreational Area, Inc. v. LaRance, 642 F.3d 802, 809 (9th Cir. 2011) (“To exercise its
inherent civil authority over a defendant, a tribal court must have both subject matter jurisdiction—consisting of
regulatory and adjudicative jurisdiction—and personal jurisdiction.”).
162 The South Dakota Supreme Court seemed to recognize that fact when it noted that the basis of tribal jurisdiction
in ICWA cases is “the child’s relationship with the tribe through residency, domicile, or as a ward of the tribal
court.” G.R.F., 569 N. W.2d at 33 (emphasis added).
163 739 N.W.2d 796 (S.D. 2007).
164 Id. at 812. See also Merrill v. Altman, 807 N. W.2d 821 (S.D. 2011) (tribal court lacked exclusive jurisdiction
under ICWA in custody case involving children who were members of tribe but were not domiciled on reservation).