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Begin your tribal law research project by finding background information about the tribe’s legal system. This will give you an idea about the types of primary sources you will need to locate: constitutions, treaties, codes, court decisions, and customary or traditional law. Listed below are sources for this type of information.
Tribal Court Clearinghouse
This freely available web site has contact information for tribal courts.
Tribal Leaders Directory
This free resource from the Bureau of Indian Affairs lists the date the tribe was recognized, restored or reaffirmed; criminal jurisdiction; court; organization status/corporate charter; and liquor ordinance with Federal Register.
U.S. Census Bureau, American Indian and Alaska Native Data and Links
From the U.S. Census Bureau, a publication of American Indian and Alaskan Native (AIAN) counts, estimates, and statistics at different geographic levels. The site includes AIAN policy guidelines and a handbook for interacting and consulting with federally recognized tribes.
Tribal Codes, Constitutions, Court Opinions
Indigenous Law Portal from the Library of Congress
This resource from the Law Library of Congress brings together materials from the Law Library of Congress as well as links to tribal websites and primary source materials found on the web. Tribal information includes constitutions and codes and can be browsed by region, state, and alphabetically.
National Conference of State Legislatures’ Database of State-Tribal Legislation
This web site includes the text of state bills and enacted legislation from 2010-present that affect tribal communities. Information can be accessed by state and by topic.
National Indian Law Library Tribal Gateway
The Tribal Law Gateway is a resource for finding the National Indian Law Library’s most recent copy of a tribal code or constitution. Each federally-recognized tribe is listed in an A-Z table. Additional information includes the presence of the most recent online copy on the Internet and tribal contact information.
Native American Constitution and Law Digitization Project
As a cooperative effort among the University of Oklahoma Law Center, the National Indian Law Library, and Native American tribes, this project provides access to tribal constitutions, tribal codes, and other tribal legal documents.
Federal Indian Law
Federal Indian Law Court Decisions
The Tribal Law and Policy Institute, a Native American operated organization focused on enhancing justice in Indian Country, has provided on its web site links to summaries of Indian law cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court from 1991 to the present. The Institute’s website also has information concerning Indian law cases currently pending before the Supreme Court.
WestlawNext This link opens in a new window
Full text of federal and state court cases, laws and regulations; legal periodicals and encyclopedias; European Union legal documents; and legal guides and information for pre-law students. Note: many functions of Westlaw will only function properly if you disable any pop-up blocker. For example, printing may not work if a pop-up blocker is active.
Oyez (pronounced O-yay)
Created by Cornell’s Legal Information Institute (LII), Justia, and Chicago-Kent College of Law, Oyez is a multimedia archive devoted to making the Supreme Court of the United States accessible to everyone. Offering transcript-synchronized and searchable audio, plain-English case summaries, illustrated decision information, and full-text Supreme Court opinions (through Justia). Oyez also provides detailed information on every justice throughout the Court’s history and offers a panoramic tour of the Supreme Court building, including the chambers of several justices.
Executive- The President and Agencies
Department of Interior
Bureau of Indian Affairs
The BIA’s website offers information on its organizational structure and programs, a document library, news outlet, and current tribal leader directory.
Interior Board of Indian Appeals
The Interior Board of Indian Appeals hears appeals of decisions by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Its decisions are available on its web site (1920-present).
Solicitor of the Department of Interior
The Solicitor of the Department of the Interior provides advice, counsel, and legal representation to the offices overseen by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Solicitor opinions are available on the agency’s web site (1993-present).
Department of War
In 1824 the Office of Indian Affairs was established in the United States Department of War. This office was charged with overseeing and carrying out the federal government's trade and treaty relations with Indian tribes. In 1849 the Office of Indian Affairs was transferred to the newly established Department of the Interior.
Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States
This House of Representatives subcommittee has jurisdiction over House measures relating to the welfare of Native Americans. It oversees legislation on the management of Indian lands in general and special measures relating to claims paid out of Indian funds, matters pertaining to relations between the United States and tribes, and matters related to the federal trust responsibility to Native Americans.
U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs focuses on the unique issues that American Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native peoples face. These issues include Indian education, economic development, land management, trust responsibilities, health care, and claims against the United States.
Congressional Publications This link opens in a new window
U.S. legislative information on members of Congress, voting records and publications including The Congressional Record, Federal Register, and Role Call. Legislative histories are available 1970-present; key votes in Congress 1987-present; committee reports 1990-present; bill text 1989-present.
International Indigenous Law
Key International Documents
The United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization with 193 member states. The organization has five principle organs: the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, Secretariat, and International Court of Justice. Below is a list of resources for locating UN information and documents relating to Indigenous peoples.
Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The Expert Mechanism provides the U.N. Human Rights Council with thematic advice, in the form of studies and research, on the rights of Indigenous peoples as directed by the Council. The Expert Mechanism may also suggest proposals to the Council for its consideration and approval.
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
The Permanent Forum is an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council. It discusses indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health, and human rights. The UNPFII web site provides information on Forum members, meetings, and actions, as well as links to U.N. documents related to indigenous peoples.
Amnesty International Indigenous Peoples Page
Amnesty International provides information on human rights topics related to indigenous peoples, with a focus on current news.
Center for World Indigenous Studies
The Center is a nonprofit education and research organization that provides access to indigenous peoples’ knowledge and ideas and advocates for the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples. It also houses the Chief George Manuel Memorial Library, which contains over 100,000 full text documents, reports, and publications from indigenous nations related to their social, political, economic, and human rights situations.
International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs
WGIA is an international human rights organization that publishes a wide range of materials about indigenous peoples’ rights and advocates for indigenous peoples in international forums.
World Health Organization (WHO) – Health and Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The WHO web page on the health and human rights of indigenous people contains information on WHO’s work concerning indigenous peoples’ health, resolutions related to indigenous peoples, International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples reports, and a number of relevant WHO publications.
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