Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Banner Image

IPLP Resource Guide: American Indian Law

GET STARTED

Tribal law is differentiated from federal and state law. Federal Indian law covers the relationships between federal, state, and tribal governments. Indian tribes and nations exercise their self-governance powers by developing the laws which apply within their territories and to their own members.

There are currently 574 federally recognized tribes and native villages in the contiguous 48 U.S. states and Alaska. Although there still is no formally reestablished government-to-government relationship between the federal government and Native Hawaiian community, there is an administrative process in place. In addition, there are indigenous tribes that are state recognized through a formal recognition process and others that are recognized by neither federal nor state governments. 

When starting your research on tribal law, it may be helpful to start with secondary sources. There are selected resources in this guide. The National Indian Law Library is also a great source. Researching American Indian Tribal Law by David E. Selden is a short article published in The Colorado Lawyer in 2014 and provides basic tips for research. Selden was the law librarian of National Indian Law Library and, although the article focuses on their collection, it may help guide your search in our library. The library's website also links to selected Indian Law Research Guides.

When researching a tribe's legal system, you may want to start with information about the tribe and the types of primary sources you will need for your research. The National Indian Law Library's Tribal Law Gateway is an index by tribe listing sources for tribal constitutions, codes, and court opinions. The library also provides these helpful "How To Find" tips for locating the types of sources you may need:

Another useful resource is the Native Nations Institute Indigenous Governance Database. The database provides free access to 1500 video, audio, and text resources. The database is searchable by native nation, format, and search terms. An account is required to access the content.

SELECTED INTRODUCTORY RESOURCES FROM OUR CATALOG

Ebooks

These ebooks are available on campus or with your University of Arizona NetID:

DIRECTORIES ONLINE

Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)

Law Library of Congress Indigenous Law Portal

  • List of Resources provides links to official websites of tribes and courts, in addition to links to online legal materials and resources.  The listing may also be sorted by geographic region and state.

National American Indian Court Judges Association (NAICJA)

National Congress of American Indians (NCAI)

  • Tribes provides links to the official websites of tribes, contact information, and status of recognition (federal or state).
  • Tribal Organizations provides links to websites of regional intertribal and national organizations.

National Native American Bar Association

Tribal Court Clearinghouse

  • Tribal Courts provides links to both the official website of tribes and their court websites. There are also additional resources and links to national organizations.

TRIBAL CONSTITUTIONS AND STATUTORY LAWS

In addition to NILL's Tribal Law Gateway, a useful research tool to help locate resources in Arizona is ASU's Tribal Resources for Tribes Located in Arizona. The guide includes a chart for locating constitutions, codes, and opinions. 

 

Indian Tribal Codes: A Microfiche Collection (1981) (KF8220 .I64 1981) & Indian Tribal Codes: A Microfiche Collection (1988) (KF8220 .I64 1988) edited by Ralph W. Johnson

The University of Washington Gallagher Law Library published manuals and microfiche of some tribal codes in 1981 and 1988. The 1988 collection updates but does note replace the 1981 collection. The Gallagher Library's website lists the tribes and dates of the codes in the 1981 and 1988 collections. Although the links to the UA catalog are to the print guides and we have the microfiche in our collection, University of Arizona users may also access these collections in HeinOnline's American Indian Law CollectionAccess on campus or with UA NetID.

Montana Indian Law 

This portal by the State of Montana provides information about tribes and includes links to tribes who make their constitutions, codes, or court decisions (or portions) publicly available online.

Native American Constitution and Law Digitization Project 

A project coordinated by the University of Oklahoma Law Center, National Indian Law Library, and tribes providing access to their codes, constitutions, and many other documents. Some of the links are broken, but this site is still a valuable for research. 

Northwest Intertribal Court System

This site includes links to member tribes who make their constitutions and codes (or portions of their codes) publicly available online.

Wisconsin Judicare 

This non-profit Wisconsin law firm links to tribal constitutions, codes, and laws publicly available online.  

Tribal Court Clearinghouse

A project of the Tribal Law and Policy Institute (TLPI), this site provides links to tribes who make their codes (or portions of their codes) publicly available online. This site includes links to codes on the sites of the National Indian Law Library and Native American Constitution and Law Digitization Project. This site also provides access to the TLPI Legal Code Development Series, Sample and Model Codes, and additional resources.

Constitutions and Legal Materials 

Digitized collection of historical constitutions and legal materials from the Law Library of Congress.   

Subscription Services

HeinOnline American Indian Law Collection

With nearly 1,000 titles unique to this collection and more than 1.2 million total pages dedicated to American Indian Law, this library 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. 

Lexis Advance Native American Practice Center 

Lexis Advance (UA Law password required) and Nexis Uni (must be on campus network or have current UA status to access remotely) provide access to some tribal codes and tribal court decisions. Be sure to check updating information.

LLMC Digital Native American Collection 

This collection includes a selection of historical constitutions and laws. Access restricted to UA Law campus and affiliates.

Westlaw Native American Law 

Westlaw (UA Law password required) provides access to codes and constitutions of 24 tribes, including the Navajo Nation.

TRIBAL CASE LAW

In addition to NILL's Tribal Law Gateway, a useful research tool to help locate decisions is Sources of Tribal Court DecisionsThis research guide by Mary Whisner at University of Washington School of Law includes a helpful chart listing by tribe some of the sources for decisions. For locating resources in Arizona, ASU's Indian Law Portal useful research guide Arizona Tribal Law Sources includes a chart for locating constitutions, codes, and opinions. 

 

Indian Law Reporter (KF8203.4 .I64)

Available in print in the law library, this looseleaf published by the American Indian Lawyer Training Program includes opinions of the Supreme Court of the United States, federal Courts of Appeals, federal District Courts, United States Court of Federal Claims, state court opinions, and selected tribal court opinions. It also includes miscellaneous proceedings (U.S. Tax and Bankruptcy Court decisions, Interior Board of Indian Appeals (IBIA) and Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) decisions.

Indian Law Reporter Cumulative Index

Available on the National Indian Law Library's website, this cumulative index of the Indian Law Reporter provides browsing by subject area or searching of the entire index.

West's American Tribal Law Reporter (KF8220.A519 W47)

Available in print in the law library and on Westlaw (subscription required), this reporter includes cases decided in 21 American tribal law courts, including Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation (begins with 2001), Hopi Tribe, and Navajo Nation (begin with 1997). The reporter also includes decisions of the United States Courts of Appeals and Supreme Court of the United States. 

Montana Indian Law 

This portal by the State of Montana provides information about tribes and includes links to tribes who make their constitutions, codes, or court decisions (or portions) publicly available online.

Northwest Intertribal Court System

Free online access to hundreds of tribal court appellate opinions from NICS member tribes in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and Northern California. Print publication ceased in with volume 9 (2009-2010). The NICS website has all volumes through 15 (2017)The law library has in print Tribal Court Appellate Decisions (volumes 1-5) and Northwest Regional Appellate Courts (volumes 6-9) KF8220.A519 T75.

Southwest Intertribal Court of Appeals Reporter (KF8220 .A515 1990) 

The American Indian Law Center's Southwest Intertribal Court of Appeals (SWITCA) is an appellate court forum for member tribes located in Arizona, southern Colorado, New Mexico, and west Texas. Coverage for tribes in Arizona: Ak-Chin Indian Community, Cocopah Indian Tribe, Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, Hopi Tribe, Hualapai Tribe, Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, and Tonto Apache Tribe. Print reporter is available in the law library. 

Tribal Court Clearinghouse

VersusLaw partners with the Tribal Law and Policy Institute to provide a searchable database of tribal court opinions. Tribal Court Clearinghouse also links to decisions made publicly available by tribes.

Subscription Services 

Lexis Advance Native American Practice Center 

Lexis Advance (UA Law password required) and Nexis Uni (must be on campus network or have current UA status to access remotely) provide access to some tribal codes and tribal court decisions. Be sure to check updating information.

Westlaw Native American Law

Westlaw (UA Law password required) provides access to Oklahoma Tribal Court Reports, West's Mashantucket Pequot Report, and West's American Tribal Law Reporter. 

VersusLaw  

In addition to its federal and state primary materials, this subscription service includes cases decided in 22 Native American tribal law courts, including Fort McDowell Yavapai Tribal Court (begins with 1999), Hopi Tribal Court (begins with 1981), Hualapai (begins with 2007), and Navajo Nation Court (begins with 1970). Check the listing for tribal court coverage. Law students, faculty, and staff may sign up for a free VersusLaw Law School account.