This study explores legal and economic dimensions of current perceptions of (and debates over) the nature and extent of tribal self-rule in the United States, with the objective of distinguishing between myth and reality. The authors address key threads of thought and assumptions that pervade, accurately or inaccurately, discussions in the public policy arena. What emerges is a picture in which tribes do exercise substantial, albeit limited, sovereignty. This sovereignty is not a set of special rights. Rather, its roots lie in the fact that Indian nations predate the United States. While their sovereignty has been diminished, it has not been terminated. Tribal sovereignty is recognized and protected by the U.S. Constitution, legal precedent, and treaties, as well as applicable principles of human rights.