Reservation Law and Legal Definition

Reservation is a term subject to different meanings. In the context of real property, reservation refers to a clause in a deed in which the original property owner retains some right or portion of the property, such as an easement or mineral rights. Reservations may also refer to something that is kept back or withheld, or reserved for a particular future use, such as a hotel room that is booked to be used by a certain party on a certain date.

Reservation may also refer to lands governed by tribal courts. Indian tribes are distinct, independent political communities, retaining their original natural rights in matters of local self-government. Although no longer possessed of the full attributes of sovereignty, tribes remain a separate people, with the power of regulating their internal and social relations. Tribal courts have jurisdiction over a suit by any party – Indian or non-Indian – against an Indian person, a tribe, or tribal entity for a claim arising on the reservation. Jurisdiction over lawsuits between non-Indians arising on the reservation lies in state court.