Tribal Constitution & Bylaws


Download complete Constitution and Bylaws here.

We, the Winnebago Tribe of the Winnebago Reservation in the State of Nebraska, in order to reestablish our tribal organization; to conserve and develop our natural resources; to form business and other organizations; to enjoy certain rights of home rule; to provide education in schools of higher learning, including vocational, trade, high schools, and colleges for our people; do ordain and establish this Constitution and Bylaws according to the Act of Congress, dated June 18, 1934 (48 Stat. 984).


SECTION 1. This Constitution shall apply to the territory embraced in the Winnebago Reservation in Nebraska, as the same is described by the Treaty of March 8, 1865 (14 Stat. 671) and the twenty (20) sections included in the strip purchased in Nebraska for Wisconsin Winnebagos (18 Stat. 170, June 22, 1874) and such lands as may be added thereto by Congress or the Tribe or reaffirmation of the title to lands through the courts to the Tribe, except as otherwise provided by law.


SECTION 1. The membership of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska shall consist as follows:

(a) All persons of Indian blood whose names appear, or are entitled to appear, on the April 1, 1934 official census roll of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, or the January 1, 1935, supplement thereto: provided that those persons who possess Winnebago Indian blood and blood of another tribe have not elected to be enrolled with the other tribe; and provided further that those persons of Indian blood of tribes other than Nebraska Winnebago, whose names appear on the basic roll as “N. E.” shall not be considered as members of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska; and provided further that persons of Winnebago Indian blood after the date of the basic roll and prior to the date of this amendment, may be enrolled if by January 1,1967, they submit to the Tribal Council a request, in writing, accompanied by such evidence as is necessary to determine their qualifications for enrollment; and provided further that any Indian who may be eligible for membership in the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, who has received an allotment of land, or received financial benefits as a member of another tribe, shall not be enrolled. [As changed by Amendment No. I, effective April 18, 1963] 

(b) All persons who have been validly adopted as members of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska prior to the date of this amendment is approved by the Secretary of the Interior. [As changed by Amendment No. I, effective April 18, 1963]

(c) All children born to an enrolled member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, provided such children possess at least one-fourth (1/4) degree Indian blood, including both Winnebago Indian blood and blood of another federally recognized Indian tribe. [As changed by Amendment, effective March 10, 2009 and replacing the prior Subsection (c) modified by Amendment No. I, effective April 18, 1963] (d) Persons who are descendants of an enrolled Winnebago tribal member and who have one-fourth (1/4) or more degree Indian blood, including both Winnebago Indian blood and blood of another federally recognized Indian tribe, may be enrolled in tribal membership upon approval by a majority vote of the tribal membership, provided application is first made in writing to the Tribal Council or its designee. The Tribal Council, after proper investigation, shall submit to a vote of the tribal members at the next tribal election the names of all applicants for enrollment determined to be a descendant of a Winnebago tribal member and have at least one-fourth (1/4) degree Indian blood, including both Winnebago Indian blood and blood of another federally recognized Indian tribe. Those applicants approved by a majority vote of the tribal membership voting in the election shall be accepted as members of the tribe. [As changed by Amendment, effective March 10, 2009 and replacing prior Subsection (d) added by Amendment No. VIII, effective April [1, 1968]

SECTION 2. Any person who has been rejected as a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, except those rejected under Section I (b), shall have the right to appeal his case to the Secretary of the Interior within sixty (60) days from the date written notice of the rejection is issued to him, and the decision of the Secretary of the Interior shall be final. [As changed by Amendment No. 1, effective April 18, 1963] 

SECTION 3. Nothing contained in this Article shall be construed to deprive any Winnebago Indian of any vested property right. [As changed by Amendment No. I, effective April 18, 1963]


SECTION 1. The governing body of this Tribe shall be the Tribal Council, composed of nine members, who shall be elected at large by secret ballot at an election hereinafter provided for by the qualified voters of the Tribe; such members to be chosen from the membership of the Tribe. [As changed by Amendment No. II, effective April 18, 1963]

SECTION 2. At the election held in October 1963, nine (9) members shall be elected. The three (3) receiving the highest number of votes shall be declared elected for a term of three (3) years. The three (3) receiving the next highest number of votes shall be declared elected for a term of two (2) years, and the three (3) receiving the next highest number of votes shall be declared elected for a term of one (1) year. In October 1964, and each year thereafter, there shall be elected three (3) members to the Council, whose terms of office shall be three (3) years. [As changed by Amendment No. II, effective April 18, 1963] 

SECTION 3. The Tribal Council, in their first meeting after the election, shall elect from their membership a Chairman, a Vice Chairman, and a Secretary. A Treasurer shall be appointed from their membership, or the Council may appoint one from the tribal membership. All Officers shall serve for a term of one (1) year, or until their successors are elected or appointed. [As changed by Amendment No. II, effective April 18, 1963]

SECTION 4. The Tribal Council shall appoint all necessary subordinate Officers, Boards and Committees.


SECTION 1. Enumerated Powers. The Tribal Council shall exercise the following powers subject to any limitations imposed by the Constitution or Statutes of the United States, and subject further to all express restrictions upon such powers contained in this Constitution and the attached Bylaws. [Amendment III deletes subsections (c) and (I), effective April 18, 1963. Subsection (r) was added by Amendment IX, effective May 28, 1981. Amendment III deleted Sections 1 (c) and (I) entirely and re-designated the subsections (a) through (q). Amendment IX added Section 1 (r). Amendment X in Section 1 deleted the words, "the State of Nebraska”, in subsection (a), added language; in subsections (c) through (r) deleted existing language and inserted new language. Subsection (s) was deleted. In Section 2, deleted existing language and inserted new language. In Section 3, deleted existing language and inserted new language. In Section 4, deleted existing language and inserted new language]

(a) To negotiate with the federal, state and local governments on behalf of the Tribe, and to advise and consult with the representatives of the Interior Department on all activities of the Department that may affect the Winnebago Reservation. “Reservation”, as used herein, shall include the Winnebago Reservation and all other Indian Country subject to the jurisdiction of the Tribe. 

(b) To employ counsel for the protection and advancement of the rights of the Tribe and its members, the choice of counsel and fixing of fees to be subject to the approval of the Secretary of the Interior.

(c) To safeguard and promote the peace, safety, morals and general welfare of the Tribe.

(d) To make assignments of tribal land and to regulate the leasing, use and disposition of assignments in conformity with Article VIII of this Constitution.

(e) To manage all economic affairs and enterprises of the Tribe.

(f) To appropriate for public purposes of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, available funds within the exclusive control of the Tribal Council.

(g) To levy and collect taxes and license fees upon persons residing on or doing business within the reservation, and upon property actually or constructively located within the Reservation.

(h) To purchase lands within the Reservation for public purposes, under condemnation proceeding in courts of competent jurisdiction.

(i) To regulate the conduct of trade and the use and disposition of property upon the Reservation.

(j) To regulate the inheritance of property, real and personal, within the territory of the Winnebago Reservation.

(k) To regulate the manner of making nominations and holding elections for tribal office.

(l) To adopt resolutions regulating the procedure of the Tribal Council, tribal officials and other tribal agencies.

(m) To encourage and foster the arts, crafts, traditions and culture of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.

(n) To encourage the commerce of the community and discover markets for the sale of all products of the tribal members.

(o) To charter subordinate organizations for economic or political purposes and to regulate the activities of cooperative associations.

(p) To protect and preserve the property, wildlife and natural resources of the Tribe.

(q) To promulgate and enforce statutes governing the conduct of persons located within or passing through the Reservation and providing for maintenance of law and order and the administration of justice.

(r) To delegate to subordinate boards, or to tribal officials, or to cooperative associations which are open to all members of the Tribe, any of the foregoing powers reserving the right to review any actions taken by virtue of such delegated powers.

SECTION 2. Subject to the express limitations in this Constitution, or in the federal law, to legislate or act upon any subject upon which the Tribe is empowered to act, now or in the future. [New subsection added by Amendment X, effective June 23, 1987]

SECTION 3. The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska in exercising its powers of self government shall not: [New section added by Amendment X, effective June 23, 1987]

(a) Make or enforce any law prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition for a redress of grievances.

(b) Violate the rights of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable search and neither seizures, nor issue warrants, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the person or thing to be seized.

(c) Subject any person for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy.

(d) Compel any person in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.

(e) Take any private property for a public use without compensation.

(f) Deny to any person in a criminal proceeding the right to a speedy and public trial, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, to be confronted with the witnesses against him, to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and at his own expense to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

(g) Require excessive bail, impose excessive fines, inflict cruel and unusual punishments, and in no event impose for conviction of any one offense any penalty or punishment greater than that permitted by applicable law.

(h) Deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of its laws or deprive any person of liberty or property without due process of law.

(i) Pass any bill of attainder or ex post facto law.

(j) Deny to any person accused of an offense punishable by imprisonment the right, upon request, to a trial by jury of not less than six (6) persons.

SECTION 4. These powers of self government shall include all governmental powers possessed by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska; legislative, executive and judicial, and all offices, bodies and tribunals by through which they are executed. [New section added by Amendment X, effective June 23, 1987]


SECTION 1. The first election under this amended Constitution shall be called, held and conducted as provided for under Section 3 of this Article. The election officials shall certify to each newly elected member of the Council of his or her election. It shall be the duty of the newly elected Council to meet within ten days of the receipt of such certification and proceed to organize as herein provided. [As changed by Amendment IV, effective April 18, 1963]

SECTION 2. All elections held under and by virtue of this Constitution shall be held under the supervision of the Tribal Council, who shall provide all necessary equipment, appoint election officials, and furnish police protection and all other necessary things that pertain to an election.

SECTION 3. All regular elections shall be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in October of each year, at such place or places as may be determined by the Tribal Council.

SECTION 4. All elections shall be by secret ballot.

SECTION 5. Any recognized member of the Winnebago Tribe eighteen (18) years of age and over who has maintained residence within the reservation for a period of six (6) months prior to the date of election shall be a qualified voter. [As changed by Amendment No. IV, effective April 18, 1963, and by amendment No. XIV, effective July 15, 1994] (TCR 94-129)


SECTION 1. If an Officer, Councilman, or appointed official shall be removed from office, die or resign; the Tribal Council by a two thirds (2/3) affirmative vote shall declare the position vacant and shall appoint by a two thirds (2/3) affirmative vote a qualified individual to fill the position until the next general election at which time the qualified voters shall vote to fill such position for the unexpired term.


(a) The Tribal Council may by a two thirds (2/3) affirmative vote of the Council expel any member, including any Officer, for gross neglect of duty or gross misconduct. The Secretary (or the Vice Chairman in the event the Secretary is the subject of the removal) shall deliver to the Member a written notice of the alleged violation and stating the time and place of hearing before the Council. The Member shall have a reasonable opportunity to present his or her defense of the allegations. Following a vote in favor of removal, the removed Member may, within fifteen (15) calendar days of removal, submit the decision to the Tribal Court for an advisory opinion regarding the procedural integrity of the removal process. The Judge shall then conduct a hearing and based on testimony and record evidence, shall issue an advisory opinion as to whether the Tribal Council followed proper procedures in implementing the removal. Following consideration of such opinion, the Tribal Council may in its discretion, reinstate the removed Member and/or reinitiate the removal process correcting any procedural improprieties.

(b) From the time of receipt of the notice of removal hearing, the affected Member shall be suspended from his/her duties as a Council Member. Such suspension shall remain in effect until (i) an affirmative vote for removal has occurred, or (ii) the Member has been reinstated by a vote of the Tribal Council following consideration of an advisory opinion.


(a) Any appointed or elected official may be recalled by petition, initiated by a qualified voter, alleging specific instances of gross neglect of duty or gross misconduct. Said petition shall set forth specific signatures of no less than forty (40) percent of the qualified voters voting in the last regular tribal election. The Tribal Court shall certify the voters on the petition and forward the petition to the Tribal Council within thirty (30) days.

(b) Upon receipt of a certified petition for recall, the Tribal Council shall call a special election on the recall petition.

(c) In an election for removal, sixty (60) percent of the voters voting in the last tribal election shall authorize such removal or retention. If the official is recalled by an election, the Tribal Council shall declare the position vacant and fill in accordance with Section I of this article.


(a) Gross neglect of duty is evidenced by the following:

1. Gross incompetency - unable or unwilling to perform the duties of the office.

2. Abandonment of office - not attending three (3) consecutive Tribal Council meetings without a good cause, or moving away and making a home off the Winnebago Reservation for a period in excess of three (3) consecutive months.

(b) Gross misconduct is evidenced by the following:

1. Any Class I offense conviction in Tribal Court, or its equivalent in courts of other jurisdictions in any one calendar year.

2. Three (3) Class II offense convictions in Tribal Court, or its equivalent in court of other jurisdictions in any one calendar year.

3. Conviction of a felony.

[This article amended generally by Amendment XII, effective June 23, 1987, and changed substantially again by Amendment XV, effective July 15, 1994] (TCR 94-129)


SECTION I. Any exercise of the enumerated powers lodged in the Tribal Council shall be subject to a

referendum vote of the people upon a written petition signed by not less than twenty five (25) percent of the

total number of voters in the last annual election, provided that not less than thirty (30) percent of the eligible

voters shall vote in any such referendum.


The Tribal Council shall have the following authorities:

SECTION 1. To manage and lease or otherwise deal with tribal land and communal resources in accordance with law. To prevent the sale, disposition, lease or encumbrance of tribal lands, interest in lands, or other tribal assets.

SECTION 2. Tribal Lands. The unallotted lands of the Winnebago Tribe, and all lands which may hereafter be acquired by the Winnebago Tribe, shall be held as tribal lands, and no part of such land shall be mortgaged, sold, or ceded, except as permitted by law, and then only with the consent and approval of the Secretary of Interior. Tribal lands shall not be allotted to individual Indians, but may be assigned to a member of the Winnebago Tribe, or leased, or otherwise used by the Tribe, as hereinafter provided.


(a) Tribal lands may be leased by the Tribal Council with the approval of the Secretary of Interior, for such periods of time as permitted by law.

(b) Grazing permits covering tribal lands may be issued by the Tribal Council with the approval of the Secretary of the Interior, for such periods of time as permitted by law.

SECTION 4. Assignments of tribal land.

(a) The Tribal Council may, by statute, provide for the granting, tenure and disposition of assignments of tribal land.

(b) Any member of the Tribe who owns an allotment, or any share of heirship or patent-in-fee land may voluntarily transfer his interest in such land to the Tribe in exchange for an assignment to the same land, or for other land, or a proportionate share in other tribal assets.

SECTION 5. Use of unassigned tribal land. Tribal land, which is not leased or assigned, including tribal timberlands, shall be managed by the Tribal Council.

SECTION 6. Acquisition of land by Tribe. The Tribal Council of the Winnebago Tribe is hereby authorized and empowered to acquire by purchase, exchange of tribal land, relinquishment or otherwise, any lands or interest in lands, for or on behalf of the Winnebago Tribe, under such terms as may be agreed upon, provided the acquisition is approved by the Secretary of the Interior. [This article changed in its entirety by Amendment V; effective April 18, 1963. Section 4 (a) and Section 5 were changed by Amendment XII, effective June 23,1987]


This Constitution and Bylaws may be amended by a majority vote of the qualified voters of the Winnebago Tribe voting at an election called for that purpose by the Secretary of the Interior; provided that at least thirty (30) percent of those entitled to vote shall vote in such election, but no amendment shall become effective until it shall have been approved by the Secretary of the Interior. It shall be the duty of the Secretary of the Interior to call an election on any proposed amendment upon receipt of a written resolution of the Council, signed by at least five (5) members of the Tribal Council. [As changed by Amendment No. VI, effective April 18, 1963]


SECTION 1. Judicial Powers. The court system shall consist of one Chief Judge and Associate Judges appointed by the Tribal Council. The term of the Chief Judge shall be six (6) years with the terms of Associate Judges to be provided by Statutes of the Tribal Council. A Judge may be removed for just cause by a petition of forty (40) percent of the voters voting in the last tribal election, filed with the Superintendent, Bureau of Indian Affairs, who shall call an election for removal. In an election for removal, sixty (60) percent of the voters voting in the last tribal election voting affirmative shall authorize such removal. Before the removal election is called, the Judge will be provided a hearing to answer all charges. The qualifications of the Judges of the Winnebago Tribal Court shall be established by Statutes enacted by the Tribal Council. [The judicial powers Article was added by Amendment IX, effective May 28, 1981. It was changed by Amendment XI, effective June 23, 1987]



SECTION 1. The duties of the Tribal Officers shall be as follows:

(a) The Chairman of the Tribal Council shall preside at all meetings of the Council. He shall also be the Presiding Officer of any General Council meeting. He shall at all times have general supervision of the affairs of the Tribal Council, and such matters as naturally pertain to the general welfare of the community. He shall execute all the rules, regulations and orders of the Council, and shall have power to call to his assistance any official or member of this Tribe whenever he deems it necessary for the proper enforcement of any orders of the Tribal Council; he shall perform all other duties that may be provided by the Council and such other duties that pertain to the Presiding Officer of the Tribe.

(b) The Vice Chairman shall preside over the Tribal Council meeting when the Chairman is absent. He shall also perform any other duties that the Council shall determine that he perform in conformity with the Constitution and Bylaws of this Tribe.

(c) The Secretary shall be the custodian of the official records, books, papers and documents of the Tribe. He shall keep a minute record of all the proceedings, resolutions and all the activities of the Council, shall handle all correspondence, and shall provide copies of all Regular and Special Meetings for the Council, the Superintendent and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and shall perform all other duties required of his office by the Tribal Council.

(d) The Treasurer shall be the custodian of the funds of the Tribe, received from any source whatever. He shall give bond with some corporate surety bonding company in such an amount as the Tribal Council shall fix, such surety bonding company and the bond thus given to be subject to the approval of the Secretary of Interior. He shall keep an accurate record of all funds received and disbursed by him; he shall make a monthly report to the Tribal Council of all such receipts and disbursements, such report to be made under oath, and copies of all reports shall be provided for the Council, Superintendent and Commissioner of Indian Affairs. His records shall be open to inspection at any and all times by the Council and any member of this Tribe. He shall perform any additional duties provided by the Council that pertain to the office of Treasurer.

SECTION 2. The Tribal Council may call to its aid any member of this Tribe in the carrying out of any of the provisions of this Constitution and Bylaws at any time that the said Council shall deem it necessary and conditions warrant.

SECTION 3. The Tribal Council may cause the records and books of the Treasurer and other officials to be audited by a competent auditing committee whenever the Tribal Council deems it necessary, such committee to make their report under oath and the same shall comprise an itemized statement of all receipts and disbursements, and for what purposes, and they shall be compensated for such service in such amount as the Tribal Council shall by resolution provide, subject to the approval of the Secretary of the Interior.


SECTION 1. Members of the Council must be twenty-five (25) years of age or over, bona fide residents of the Winnebago Reservation of Nebraska; it is provided further that the Tribal Council shall be the judge of the qualifications of its own members. [As changed by Amendment No. VII, effective April 18, 1963]


SECTION 1. All Officers when elected shall be duly installed and subscribed to an oath of office to support the Constitution of the United States and this Constitution. Such Officers may be sworn in by any Officer qualified to administer an oath.


SECTION 1. Salaries may be paid to Tribal Council Officers and Members from tribal funds as approved by a vote of the Tribal Council following, with respect to each such salary payment, a determination as to the level of compensation and justification therefore, the specific services to be provided for the duration of the salary period.

SECTION 2. The Members of the Tribal Council, Boards and Committees may be paid for expenses incurred in the interest of the Tribe from tribal funds with authorization by the Tribal Council.

SECTION 3. The Treasurer shall prepare and submit an annual operating budget to the Tribal Council no later than forty five (45) days prior to the first day of each fiscal year. The Tribal Council shall review, modify as necessary and approve each such budget no later than thirty (30) days prior to the beginning of each fiscal year.

SECTION 4. Except for expenditures of funds approved pursuant to the budget process set forth above, additional expenditures of funds belonging to the Tribe must first be approved by a majority vote of the Tribal Council at a Regular Meeting. [Sections 1, 2 and 3 changed; and Section 4 added; by Amendment XVI, effective July 15, 1994] (TCR 94-129)


SECTION 1. The Tribal Council shall convene Regular Meetings on the first and third Mondays of each month.


(a) The meetings of the Council shall be public, except all executive sessions.

(b) All meetings of the Tribal Council shall be governed by Robert's Rules of Order, as revised.

SECTION 3. Special Meetings of the Tribal Council may be called at any time by the Chairman as deemed necessary. A majority of the Council, by petition, may call a Special Meeting with three (3) days notice thereof, giving the reason for such meeting and the nature of the business to be transacted. [Sections 1, 2 and 3 changed and Section 4 repealed by Amendment XVII, effective July 15, 1994] (TCR 94-129)


SECTION 1. The Tribal Council shall work in very close cooperation with the Indian Service and various Departments of the State of Nebraska in matters of charity, education, recreation, social work and public health, and on land assignments with the Superintendent of the jurisdiction.


This Constitution and Bylaws, when ratified by a majority of the qualified voters of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, voting at a special election called for the purpose by the Secretary of the Interior, provided that at least thirty (30) percent of those entitled to vote shall vote in such election, shall be submitted to the Secretary of the Interior, and if approved, shall be effective from the date of approval.