Skip to main content

Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez


SANTA CLARA PUEBLO V. MARTINEZ, 436 U.S. 49 (1978), a landmark case regarding the federal government's jurisdiction over Indian tribes, arose from tribal disputes over membership. A woman member of the Santa Clara Pueblo tribe married a Navajo and had seven children. The Santa Clara Pueblo denied membership to the woman's children based on a tribal ordinance excluding the children of female, but not male, members who married outside the tribe. Excluded children could neither vote, hold secular office, remain on the reservation in event of the mother's death, nor inherit their mother's house or interest in communal lands. The mother asked the federal district court to enjoin enforcement of this gendered ordinance. The district court decided in favor of the mother, contending that the Indian Civil Rights Act granted it implied jurisdiction to do so. Congress passed the act in 1968 to apply certain provisions of the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution to tribal governments in criminal cases. Santa Clara Pueblo appealed the federal court's decision, arguing that the 1968 law did not authorize civil actions in federal court for relief against a tribe or its officials. The Supreme Court agreed, guaranteeing strong tribal autonomy except when Congress provided for federal judicial review.


MacKinnon, Catherine A. Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987.

Molander, Susan Sanders. "Case Notes: Indian Civil Rights Act and Sex Discrimination." Arizona State Law Journal 1 (1977).

TonyFreyer/j. h.

See alsoBureau of Indian Affairs ; Native Americans ; Women in Public Life, Business, and Professions .

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez." Dictionary of American History. . 16 Feb. 2019 <>.

"Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez." Dictionary of American History. . (February 16, 2019).

"Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved February 16, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.