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American Indian Law

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Getting Started with Your Research

This guide will help you get started with your research on legal issues relating to Native Americans, Alaska Natives and other peoples indigenous to North America.





Several law journals sponsor regular conferences and symposia on topics in Indian law and publish the proceedings. A few of the journals are:

Arizona Law Review
Arizona State Law Journal

Federal Lawyer
Kansas Journal of Law and Public Policy
South Dakota Law Review
Tulsa Law Review
University of Detroit Mercy Law Review

The proceedings are easy to find using LegalTrac/Legal Resource Index:

[e-Resource] [Westlaw]


Detailed Subject Index to the University of Washington Indian Law Symposia & Conferences

Subject Headings

Use these Library of Congress Subject Headings to identify additional works on these topics:

  • Federally recognized Indian tribes
  • Indian courts -- United States
  • Indians of North America -- Politics and government
  • Indians of North America -- Government relations
  • Indians of North America -- Law and legislation
  • Indians of North America -- Legal status, laws, etc.
  • Self-determination, National -- United States


Examples using name of a specific tribe (tip: try using this format for other tribes as well):

  • Navajo courts
  • Navajo Indians -- Law and legislation.
  • Navajo Indians -- Legal status, laws, etc.
  • Navajo law
  • Navajo Nation



The United States government has entered into a wide array of treaties and agreements with various Native American Tribes and finding all of these materials can be complicated. The following sources collect primary documents and other information pertaining to these agreements\

Treaty Indexes & Lists

Treaties in the Statutes at Large

Collected Treaties


Current Federal Statutes

Title 25 of the United States Code

Contains most, but not all, U.S. laws about Indians.

Kappler Report (requires Westlaw password)

Several volumes contain the early statutes:

  • v. 1. Laws. Compiled to Dec. 1, 1902 [HeinOnline]
  • v. 3. Laws. Compiled to Dec. 1, 1913 [HeinOnline]
  • v. 4. Laws. Compiled to March 4, 1927 [HeinOnline]
  • v. 5. Laws. Compiled from Dec. 22, 1927, to June 29, 1938 [HeinOnline]
  • v. 6. Laws. Compiled from Feb. 4, 1939 to Jan. 13, 1971, Part 1 [HeinOnline]
  • v. 7. Laws, Proclamations, [etc.]. Compiled from Feb.4, 1939 to Jan. 13, 1971, Parts II-V [HeinOnline]

Free online Kappler access: Oklahoma State University.

Tribal Court Clearinghouse: Federal Laws

Selected Laws Relating to Native Americans

Historical Statutes

Indian Affairs: Law and Treaties, by Charles Kappler, is a multivolume set compiling U.S. treaties, laws and executive materials related to U.S. relations with Native Americans. Initially published in 1904 the work has been updated several times, and now covers materials from 1778-1970

Administrative Law


Most regulations relating to Indians are codified in Title 25 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

Administrative Decisions

Board of Indian Appeals (IBIA)
Decisions 1970 - [IBIA Archive] [Westlaw]

Opinions of the Solicitor of the Department of the Interior Relating to Indian Affairs, 1917-1974.
[LexisNexis] [University of Oklahoma Law Center]

United States. Indian Claims Commission Decisions v.1 (1948) - v.43 (1978) [LLMC] [Oklahoma State University]


Federal Cases

LII Supreme Court Collection. Topic: Native Americans.
Selected cases.

Landmark Indian Law Cases. William S. Hein & Co., 2002. Also availabe on HeinOnline.

Tribal Law

Tribal Justice Systems

Tribal Court Clearinghouse makes the VersusLaw opinions database publicly available for simple keyword searching or for browsing by topic.


Indian Law Reporter: Covers federal and state cases as well as tribal decisions.

The Harvard Law School Library has case reporters for several tribes.
To find the decisions of a specific tribal court, do an Author search on HOLLIS, using the name of the tribe.

Tribal Law Gateway

Tribal Codes, Constitutions, & Charters

American Indian Constitutions and Legal Materials
The Law Library of Congress has digitizes a number of tribal constitutions and other legal materials. They are all arranged by geographic region.

Native American Constitution and Law Digitization Project
A project of the University of Oklahoma and the and the National Indian Law Library of the Native American Rights Fund.

Indian Reorganization Act Era Constitutions and Charters
Constitutions, corporate charters, and bylaws created in the 1930’s and 1940’s by about 370 tribes, communities, and villages.


The Harvard Law School Library has many tribal codes in print and on microform

A Bibliography of the Constitutions and Laws of the American Indians. Harvard University Press, 1947.

Indian Tribal Codes: A Microfiche Collection. [Seattle]: Marian Gould Gallagher Law Library, University of Washington School of Law, 1981.

To find the code of a specific tribe, do an Author search on HOLLIS using the name of the tribe.


Research Guides, Links

National Indian Law Library Blog

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Databases & Websites


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