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American Indian and Indigenous Law Resources


Tribal law is differentiated from federal and state law.  Native American 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 (see information in the Introduction section of this guide). 

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 (NILL) 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 that 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 National Indian Law 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.

Tribal Law Resources - Laws & Court Opinions

The National Indian Law Library (NILL) of the Native American Rights Fund is a law library devoted to federal Indian and tribal law. NILL maintains a unique and valuable collection of Indian law resources and assists people with their Indian law-related research needs.

NILL also provides these helpful "How To Find" tips for locating the types of sources you may need:

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.

Tribal Court Clearinghouse is a comprehensive website established to serve as a resource for American Indian and Alaska Native Nations, American Indian and Alaska Native people, tribal justice systems, victims services providers, tribal service providers, and others involved in the improvement of justice in Indian country. It includes a wealth of tribal, state, and federal resources.

  • Tribal Law Links provides access points to Tribal Courts,Tribal Constitutions,Tribal Laws/Codes,Tribal Court Decisions, Indian Law Reviews, Traditional Law, Tribal Federal Relations, Tribal State Relations, Tribal Law Enforcement, & Tribal Jurisdiction.

Caselaw Access Project

In addition to federal and state court opinions, CAP includes all  the American Indian law Reporter and the Navajo Nation Reporter.

These resources provide a very good look into tribal law.  However, not all tribes are represented in these resources, and contacting individual tribes is the best way to research their laws.

Subscription Services

(USC network access or password required)

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. 

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

Lexis Advance Native American Practice Center 

Lexis Advance (USC 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.

Fastcase (access on campus or USC login credentials required)

Fastcase provides access to collections of Tribal law (this is currently under development and what is available is changing and expanding).