This guide covers the primary law of Tribes in the U.S. as well as Federal Indian Law. Tribal Law is the law of sovereign Indigenous entities. Federal Indian law covers the inter-governmental relationship between Tribes and the United States. Terminology is fraught. If there are terms/descriptions which offend or are insensitive, we welcome your suggested changes.
The Harvard Law School Library has reclassified the shelving location for laws of Indigenous sovereign nations as part of a reparative project to more properly reflect Tribal sovereignty. Tribal Law formerly shelved within KF 8228 is now classed in KIE - KIG (Indigenous Law United States.) Tribal laws had been originally shelved within KF, the law of the United States. It was disrespectful to subsume the law of independent entities under U.S. federal law.
Subject headings are not consistent and many are highly problematic. Search HOLLIS by keyword using the name of the Tribe as either an author or a subject for the best access.
For more information and further reading about reparative cataloging projects, see this section of an excellent guide from the USC Law Library.
There is no comprehensive collection of Tribal Constitutions. The following sources are the main collections and can be quickly browsed. Many of these are historical collections. To determine if there is a more current version, researchers should contact the Tribe directly. Historical constitutions are important documents which demonstrate that a Tribe functioned as a politically autonomous entity during in the early 20th century. This is a factor for whether Tribes receive U.S. federal government recognition.
The Harvard Law School Library holds some current and many historical Tribal codes in print format. We have reclassed the majority of our tribal collections into KIE-KIK, Indigenous Law United States. There is not one type of HOLLIS search based on call numbers, subject phrase, or keyword that will retrieve all Tribal codes. Please ask for assistance.
Federal Indian Law is mostly classified from KF8201 to KF8578. This area of the library is in the 4th floor Reading Room, North end, beginning in Row 84. However, the great majority of our collections are housed in off site storage. Browsing our physical shelves in the Harvard Law School Library will not reveal much of our collection. We also have extensive Federal Indian Law materials in our Historical and Special Collections department. To fully exploit our research collections, please ask for assistance.
There are hundreds of treaties between the U.S. and Tribes ratified between 1778 and 1871 when Congress ended the ability of Tribes to enter into treaties with the U.S. The sources below are the main collections to identify and locate them but none are comprehensive. Please ask for assistance.
Proquest Congressional is a database covering materials of the U.S. Congress and should be a first choice in researching topics related to Federal Indian law because of its historical coverage and depth. Topic pages collate historical timelines, hearings, reports, and legislation.
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