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Native American Law & Legal Sources : Tribal Law

An introduction to legal materials available at the UW Law Library on Native Americans and other native peoples of the US, such as Native Alaskans and Hawaiians. Includes treaties, statutes, executive orders, court decisions, and administrative actions.

About Tribal Law

Tribal law is notably is distinct from federal Indian law. Whereas federal Indian law concerns the relationship between federal, state, and tribal governments, tribal law is the law tribes develop and apply to their members and territories.

For more on tribal law sources, see:

Engaging the Third Sovereign: The Nature, Reach, and Sources of Tribal Law Wisconsin Lawyer (May 2015).

"Whatever Tribal Precedent There May Be": The (Un)Availability of Tribal Law, 106 Law Library Journal 199 (2014).

The UW Law Library, in partnership with the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians, the UW Law School Great Lakes Indigenous Law Center, the National Indian Law Library, and the Open Law Library, has received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to develop The Digital Publication of Tribal Laws Pilot Project. In this project, librarians and developers will partner with Native Nations to publish their laws open access and incorporate them into digital library collections.

Constitutions, Charters, & Codes

Tribal constitutions and codes are the heart of self-government for over 500 federally recognized tribes, and are the lifeblood of Indian sovereignty.  Each tribal government operates according to its own constitutional rules.  Most tribes have written constitutions.  Many of the constitutions are modeled on form constitutions provided by the United States Department of the Interior pursuant to the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. 

Judicial Decisions

Tribal courts are courts of general jurisdiction, operating within federal Indian law and under jurisdiction conferred by tribal law.

Finding Aids and Secondary Sources