The Absentee Shawnee was organized in 1936 as the “Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma” under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act. The Absentee Shawnee Tribe possesses all the inherent powers of sovereignty held prior to the Constitution of the United States. The inherent right of self-government precedes the United States Constitution, and the governing body of the Absentee Shawnee has never relinquished any part of this sovereign right. Among the powers of self-government upheld by the actions of the Absentee Shawnee, are the powers to adopt and operate a form of government of their choosing, to define the conditions of tribal membership, to regulate domestic relations of members, to levy taxes, to regulate property within the jurisdiction of the Tribe, to control the conduct of membership by legislation and to administer justice.
The Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma is governed by a constitution. The current form of government evolved over the first half of the 20th century. This evolution began in 1938 when the current government was formalized under the constitution written to provide statutory authority. The constitution was ratified December 5, 1938, was amended on August 13, 1988 and in November 2010, and was last amended in May, 2019.
The tribal government is composed of two separate branches, the Legislative/Executive Branch and the Judicial Branch. In addition, there is an independent body, the Election Commission that is charged with the responsibility of conducting annual elections.
The Legislative/Executive Branch consist of five members: the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary, Treasurer, and Representative, all of whom are elected through referendum elections. This committee has both legislative and executive powers. Each Executive Committee Member is elected to serve a four-year term. The Executive Committee meets on a monthly basis. It is the Executive Committee’s responsibility to set policy, administer government programs and execute the will of the overall tribal membership.