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American Indian Law - Introduction
As you begin your research in American Indian Law it is important to distinguish between Tribal Law and Federal Indian Law. Tribal Law is the laws of the individual Indian nations. Federal Indian Law is the law of the United States as it has developed in the U.S. Constitution, by Congress, and in the Courts.

American Indian Nations are referred to as the "third sovereign" in the United States, depsite being the original sovereign, historically. The legal relationship between the indigenous nations of the northern hemisphere and what would become The United States of America began with a series of Treaties starting in 1722 and the Congress of the United States ended treating making with Indian nations in 1871.
Getting Started

Key Resources

National Indian Law Library this Library, part of the Native American Rights Fund (NARF)  "The National Indian Law Library (NILL) of the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) is a public law library devoted to federal Indian and tribal law. NILL serves the public by developing and making accessible a unique and valuable collection of Indian law resources and assisting people with their Indian law-related information needs. NILL offers a number of Indian Law News Bulletins covering federal and state jurisdictions, federal regulations and legislation, law reviews, and general news sources. Updates are published usually on a weekly basis and are available here on our home page or from the NILL blog, with the option of RSS feed or email delivery. " (from their website)

Native American Constitution and Law Digitization Project , from the University of Oklahoma's collection of Native American resources

The classic resource for modern Federal Indian Law is
Cohen's Handbook of Federal Indian Law 
LAW RESERVE 2nd floor  KF 8205 .C6 2012 (also available on Lexis)

Key Words / Subject Headings

The Library of Congress uses the term(s) Indians of North America Indians of North America -- Legal status, laws, etc, and Indians of South America as the general Subject headings when researching the indigneous peoples of the western hemisphere. Use of the more specific terms will yield better results when researching American Indians such as the Lakota (Sioux), Cherokee, for example.
Research tems will also depend on more intermediate terms as used by specfic governments when referring to the indigenous peoples within State borders. Some examples are:

United States - American Indians or Native Americans
Canada - First Nations, Aboriginals, Indians
Australia - Aborignes / Aborignal Peoples
New Zealand - Maori

Names / Spellings
There are over 560 official Federally recognized tribal nations  Federally Recognized Tribes

Tribal Law Resources
Tribal Law is the law of the specific Indian nation. In addition to the sources listed below, most tribes have websites and you will want to search them directly for the most current information.

Tribal Codes on Westlaw (Restricted Access, CU Law faculty and students, only)
Native American Constitution and Law Digitization Project - University of Oklahoma
National Indian Law Library - See the Tribal Law Gateway and the Access to Tribal Law Project.


o    National Indian Justice Center

o    National American Indian Court Judges Association

o    Native American Constitution and Law Digitization Project (coordinated by The University of Oklahoma Law Library and The National Indian Law Library of the Native American Rights Fund)

o    Tribal Government Sites (State and Local Government on the Net)

o    U.S. Department of Justice Office of Tribal Justice

Primary Resources
While the history of Indian/Settlor relations pre-dates the creation of the United States, primary U.S. resources begin with the United States Constitution.

United States Constitution, Art. 1, § 8 "The Congress shall have Power To regulate Commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes..."

Congressional Representation: Article 1 "Representatives...shall be apportioned among the several States...according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons,...excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons."

Amendment XIV - Section 2: "Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxes." (1868)

United States Code: Title 25 - Indians and Title 18 Crimes and Criminal Procedure The Major Crimes Act - 18 U.S.C. §1153 (see also, Titles 5, 28, and 42)

Senate Indian Affairs Committee Senate Indian Affairs Committee
Secondary Resources - Encyclopedias
American Jurisprudence - use the term "Indians"
LAW REFERENCE 2nd floor  KF 154 .A522 (Also available on Westlaw)

Corpus Juris Secundum - use the term "Indians"
LAW STACKS 2nd floor  KF 154 .C422 (Also available on Westlaw, print edition not updated)

Encyclopedia of Native American Legal Tradition
LAW REFERENCE 2nd floor  KF 8220 .A59 E53 1998 

American Indian Tribal Governments
LAW STACKS basement  E 98 .T77 O27 1989
Secondary Resources - Electronic Resources

Electronic Resources

American Indian Law Collection
ELECTRONIC RESOURCES  KF 8205 .A44i (Available on HeinOnline)
With more than 700 unique titles and 350,000 pages dedicated to American Indian Law, this collection includes an expansive archive of treaties, federal statutes and regulations, federal case law, tribal codes, constitutions, and jurisprudence. This library also features rare compilations edited by Felix S. Cohen that have never before been accessible online.

David H. Getches collection
ELECTRONIC RESOURCES  KF 373 .G47948 D384i (Available on the Wise Law Library Website)
Publications featured here include:

Conquering the Cultural Frontier: The New Subjectivism of the Supreme Court in Indian Law     View PDF
This is Getches' most-cited article on Indian law. In it he asserts that "the [Supreme] Court has assumed the job it formerly conceded to Congress, considering and weighing cases to reach results comporting with the Justices' subjective notions of what the Indian jurisdictional situation ought to be. This new subjectivist approach...severs tribal sovereignty from its historical moorings, leaving lower courts without principled, comprehensible guidance."

Treatises & Texts

American Indian Law Deskbook Conference of Western Attorneys General, chief editor, Clay Smith (2008). 
LAW RESERVE 2nd floor  KF 8205 .A76 2008
American Indian Law in a Nutshell, William C. Canby, Jr. (2009). 
LAW RESERVE 2nd floor  KF 8205 .Z9 C36 2009 

American Indians and the Law, N. Bruce Duthu (2008).
LAW STACKS 1st floor  KF 8210 .R32 D88 2008 

American Indian Sovereignty and Law: An Annotated Bibliography, edited by Wade Davies, Richmond L. Clow (2009).
LAW STACKS 1st floor  KF 8201 .A1 A44 2009

American Indian Tribal Law, Mathew L.M. Fletcher (2011). 
LAW STACKS 1st floor  KF 8220 .F54 2011 

Boarding School Healing Symposium (2011). 
LAW STACKS basement  KDZ 483 .R47 B63 2011 

Cases and Materials on Federal Indian Law, David H. Getches, Charles F. Wilkinson, Robert A. Williams, Jr., Matthew L.M. Fletcher (2011). 
LAW COURSE RESERVE  KF 8204.5 .G47 2011

Children, Tribes, and States: Adoption and Custody Conflicts over American Indian Children, Barbara Ann Atwood (2010). 
LAW STACKS 1st floor  KF 8210 .C45 A789 2010 

A Guide to Colorado Legal Resources for Native Americans, American Indian Law Clinic of the University of Colorado School of Law (2005). 
LAW COLORADO 2nd floor  KFC 2305 .G85 2005 (View PDF)

Indian Law Stories, edited by Carole Goldberg, Kevin K. Washburn, Philip P. Frickey (2011) . 
LAW RESERVE 2nd floor  KF 8205 .Z9 I53 2011

Introduction to Tribal Legal Studies, Justin B. Richland and Sarah Deer (2010).  
LAW STACKS 1st floor  KF 8205 .R53 2010 

Native Americans, Race and the Constitution (2009). 
LAW STACKS 1st floor  KF 8210 .C5 N38 2009 

On the Drafting of Tribal Constitutions, Felix S. Cohen ; edited by David E. Wilkins ; foreword by Lindsay G. Robertson (2006). 
LAW STACKS 1st floor  KF 8221 .C64 2006  

The Rights of Indians and Tribes, Stephen L. Pevar ; introduction by John Echohawk (2012). 
LAW STACKS 1st floor  KF 8210 .C5 P48 2012

The Supreme Court and Tribal Gaming: California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, Ralph A. Rossum (2011). 
LAW STACKS 1st floor  KF 8210 .G35 R67 2011 

The Supreme Court's Role in American Indian Policy, John H. Vinzant (2009). 
LAW STACKS 1st floor  KF 8205 .V56 2009

Trusteeship in Change: Toward Tribal Autonomy in Resource Management, edited by Richmond L. Clow & Imre Sutton ; foreword by David H. Getches (2001). 
LAW STACKS 1st floor  KF 8205 .T78 2001


American Indian Law Review 
LAW PERIODICALS basement  K 1 .M68 (Available on HeinOnline)

Land and Water Law Review
LAW PERIODICALS basement  K 12 .A5 (Available on HeinOnline)

NARF Legal Review
LAW STACKS 1st floor  KF 8201 .A3 N37 (Available Online)

Selected Acts and Cases
The Marshall Trilogy
     Johnson v. M'Intosh, 21 U.S. 543 (1823)  
     Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 30 U.S. 1 (1831)  
     Worcester v. Georgia, 31 U.S. 515 (1832) 
The General Allotment Act (1887) (The "Dawes" Act)  
Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock, 187 U.S. 553 (1903) 
Winters v. U.S., 207 U.S. 564 (1908) 
Indian Citizenship Act (1924)
The Indian Reorganization Act (1934) (HeinOnline)
     House Concurrent Resolution 108 (1953) (FDsys, HeinOnline)
     Public Law 280 (1953) (FDsys, HeinOnline)
     Urban Relocations Program
Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (1975) (FDsys, HeinOnline)
Indian Civil Rights Act (1968) (FDsys, HeinOnline)
Indian Child Welfare Act (1978) "ICWA" 25 U.S.C. ss 1901 et seq. (FDsys, HeinOnline)
American Indian Religious Freedom Act (1978) (FDsys, HeinOnline)
Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (1990) (FDsys, HeinOnline)
Tribal Law and Order Act (FDsys, HeinOnline)
Violence Against Women Act (1994) (FDsys, HeinOnline)
Area Specialties
The David H. Getches Collection David H. Getches Collection The David H. Getches Collection at the William A. Wise Law Library is dedicated to preserving and sharing Dean Getches’ tremendous legal and educational legacy, as reflected in his scholarship, academic speeches, congressional testimony, and litigation.

Land rights (also see Treaties)
Indian Land Tenure Foundation Indian Land Tenure Foundation

Political Principles & Indian Sovereignty, Thurman Lee Hester, Jr.
NORLIN STACKS  KF 8205 .H47 2001

Uneven Ground: American Indian Sovereignty and Federal Law - David E. Wilkins and K. Tsianina Lomawaima
LAW STACKS 1st floor  KF 8205 .W529 2001
Tribal-state and tribal-federal relationships are featured with respects to exercising sovereignty through healthcare, education, gaming, and taxation. Implications of sovereignty through six doctrines of U.S. law are examined.
Tribal Sovereignty and the Historical Imagination: Cheyenne-Arapaho Politics - Loretta Fowler
NORLIN STACKS  E 99.A7 F69 2002
The main focus of this book is on the Cheyenne-Arapaho experiences with colonizers and how it has shaped tribal politics today. The historical constructions of the Cheyenne-Arapaho ideology and its effects on tribal society and norms are demonstrated.
Contemporary Native American Political Issues - Troy R. Johnson
NORLIN STACKS  E 98 .P76 C66 1999
Comprised of a variety of articles written by scholars of American Indian Studies, this book introduces political issues impacting American Indian nations and individuals. Chapters are divided up as follows: Nationalism and Sovereignty, International
Indigenous Rights, Economic Development, Law and Justice, Repatriation, and Activism.
American Indian Sovereignty and the U.S. Supreme Court - David E. Wilkins
LAW STACKS 1st floor  KF 8205 .W527 1997
An in-depth analysis of how the U.S. Supreme Court handled Indian cases throughout history is presented in this text. Wilkins examines the Supreme Court’s diminishment of Indian sovereignty and gives examples through fifteen court cases.
Native Americans and the Law: A Dictionary - Gary A. Sokolow
LAW REFERENCE 2nd floor  KF 8203.6 .S66 2000
The dictionary is a useful tool for anyone wanting to learn more about the law as it applies to American Indians. Along with answering some of today’s most commonly asked questions about the law and American Indians, the dictionary also provides summaries of numerous legislative acts, court cases, and tribal organizations.
Documents of United States Indian Policy - Francis Paul Prucha
LAW STACKS 1st floor  KF 8205 .D63 2000
Chronologically organized, this book contains documents that are significant in that they have contributed to federal Indian policy in one way or another. The compilation includes treaties, legislative enactments, judicial decisions, executive statements, and extracts from official committees and commissions from 1780’s to 2000.
Zuni and the Courts: A Struggle for Sovereign Land Rights - E. Richard Hart
LAW STACKS 1st floor  KF 8208 .Z86 1995
Three land claim cases that resulted in three victories for the protection and compensation for Zuni aboriginal lands and environmental damage caused by private industry are examined in this publication. Zuni culture and its history are discussed. Essays written by historians, archaeologists, anthropologists and lawyers who testified in the cases are included.
Native Hawaiian Rights Handbook - Melody Kapilialoha MacKenzie
LAW STACKS basement  KFH 505.6 .C5 N37 1991
Separated into five parts with part one entitled, “Native Hawaiian Lands and Sovereignty”, this handbook analyzes and discusses the historical and political relationships that are unique to Native Hawaiians as an aboriginal people. Land titles, resource rights, traditional and customary rights are examined throughout the text.


Early Recognized Treaties with American Indian Nations, Here you will find links to treaties from 1722 to 1805 signed between indigenous nations and the British government or the United States government,  which are not included in the United States Statutes at Large, but which are officially recognized treaties.

American Indian Treaties Portal University of Nebraska -  from the site: "The Oklahoma State University Library’s Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties Internet site was developed to provide a digital collection of the final texts of 366 of the 375 American Indian treaties recognized by the United States Department of State.  The remaining nine documents are provided in this compilation, to complement the Oklahoma State resource."


The Unsettling of the West: How Indians Got the Best Water Rights, David H. Getches.

Indian Reserved Water Rights Under the Winters Doctrine: An Overview [PDF] (Congress Research Service, 2011)


Violence Against Women Act and American Indian Women, From the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) 

Futures Without Violence, An activist organization dedicated to eradicating violence against women, children, and families around the world.  The organization gathers information and resources related to violence against native women, such as this fact sheet [PDF].
Indigenous Peoples
Issues of American Indians and Federal Indian Law can be viewed as part of a larger discussion concerning the rights of Indigenous Peoples.  

In 2007, the United Nations passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by a vote of 144 to 4. The 4 "no" votes by Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States have since been reconsidered and the Declaration now enjoys the support of those countries. Issues such as land rights, culture, natural resources, language, sovereignty, self-determination, religious freedom, and more, are all addressed in the Declaration.

Other International issues include the interpretation of Treaty rights. Vienna Conventions...   Human Rights ....  WIPO ....
Current Awareness



Other Research Guides

University of Oklahoma [PDF]
National Indian Law Library (research by topic)