Updated March 30, 2011
Prepared by Mary Whisner, with contributions by Kelly Aldrich. Updated by Carissa Vogel, law librarianship intern (2007).
This guide lists sources for Indian law research. It is limited to Indian law in the United States. All call numbers are for the Gallagher Law Library unless otherwise noted.
A PowerPoint presentation on Indian law research is here.
Guides (good introductions)
Penny A. Hazelton, Indian Law Research in Washington, in Washington Legal Researcher's Deskbook 3d at 211 (2002). KFW75.W37 2002 at Reference Area & Reference Office
- Includes an overview of federal Indian policy and Indian law terminology (e.g., "Indian Country," "federal trust responsibility").
- Focuses on Washington State.
These titles list sources and generally provide less of an overview of the field than the two guides listed above.
Marilyn K. Nicely, Annotated Bibliography of Federal and Tribal Law: Print and Internet Sources (April 2003).
Nancy Carol Carter, American Indian Law: Research and Sources, Legal Reference Services Q., Winter 1984/85, at 7.Nancy Carol Carter, American Indian Tribal Governments, Law, and Courts, Legal Reference Services Q., 2000 no. 2, at 7.
Indian Land Titles (last modified March 21, 2006).Rory SnowArrow Fausett & Judith V. Royster, Courts and Indians: Sixty-Five Years of Legal Analysis: Bibliography of Periodical Articles Relating to Native American Law, 1922-1996, Legal Reference Servs. Q., Summ.-Wint. 1987, at 107.
Delores A. Jorgensen & Barbara B. Heisinger, A Bibliography of Indian Law Periodical Articles Published 1980-1990. KF8201.A1J67 1992 at Reference OfficeGallagher Law Library
- Law Library only searches just books and other material in the law library.
- UW Law WorldCat includes material from other libraries and articles in Index to Legal Periodicals
UW Libraries catalog. History, anthropology, and other fields can be useful for Indian law researchers. UW WorldCat includes material from libraries and articles from dozens of indexes. Used Advanced Search to specify certain indexes.
- National Indian Law Library / Native American Rights Fund
Catalog: "The collection
consists of Native American legal materials ranging from
books and journal articles to tribal self-governance
documents such as tribal codes and constitutions. Many of
the records in the catalog contain abstracts and table of
contents that provide detailed information about the
document. The NILL catalog is updated on a regular basis."
Tip: This catalog can help you find materials not listed in ordinary library catalogs, such as individual cases and pleadings. Sometimes you will then be able to locate the material here.
Tribes & Reservations
Bureau of Indian Affairs, Tribal Leaders Directory
Bureau of Indian Affairs, Tribal Websites directory
University of Oklahoma Law Center, American Indian Tribal/Nation Home Pages
U.S. Dep't of Commerce, Economic Development Administration, American Indian Reservations and Trust Areas. E98.A54 1996 at Reference OfficeAmerican Indian, Alaska Native Directory for Western Washington & the Puget Sound. E76.2.W3 A5 1997-98 at Reference Office
Governor's Office of Indian Affairs, Washington State Tribal Directory.
- Washington State Yearbook, annual. K9230.W38 at Reference Area & Reference Office
- Includes a list of Washington Indian tribes (with a map of reservations).
American Indian Heritage Foundation directory of federally recognized tribes.Tribal Courts
United States Tribal Courts Directory, 2d ed. KF8224.C6S39 2008 at Reference OfficeWashington State Courts, Washington Tribal Courts
Indian Court Judges Directories. KF8224.C6D5 1991 at Reference OfficeAboriginal Connections is a searchable annotated web directory related to indigenous peoples worldwide. Links to sites concerning U.S. Indian Law are here.
Montana Indian Law is a comprehensive portal to the laws of Montana tribes, including treaties, tribal codes, tribal council resolutions, and tribal court decisions.links to state, tribal, and federal resources.
University of Washington Libraries digital collection, American Indians of the Pacific Northwest. "The digital databases includes over 2,300 original photographs as well as over 1,500 pages from the Annual Reports of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior from 1851 to 1908 and six Indian treaties negotiated in 1855. Secondary sources include 89 articles from the Pacific Northwest Quarterly and 23 University of Washington publications in Anthropology."
Washington LawHelp has information for the public under the Native American Law heading. Topics include discrimination and economic development, government benefits, the Indian Child Welfare Act, treaty rights, tribal acknowledgement, tribal law, and tribal land issues.Jack Utter, American Indians: Answers to Today's Questions (2d ed. 2001). E93.U88 2001 at Reference Office
Lindsay G. Robertson, Native Americans and the Law: Native Americans Under Current United States Law (2001).Cohen's Handbook of Federal Indian Law (2005 ed.). KF8205.C6 2005 at Reference Area, available on LexisNexis and LexisNexis Academic (choose Sources > Find Sources, then search for cohen's). Comprehensive treatise prepared by leading scholars.
- Felix S. Cohen's Handbook of Federal Indian Law (1986 reprint of classic 1942 edition). KF8205.C6 1942a at Reference Area
- 1945 edition available on University of Oklahoma site.
- Felix S. Cohen's Handbook of Federal Indian Law (1982 ed.). KF8205.C6 1982 at Reference Area. Available on LexisNexis
William C. Canby, American Indian Law in a Nutshell (5th ed. 2009). KF8205.Z9C36 2004 at Reference Area
Conference of Western Attorneys General, American Indian Law Deskbook (4th ed. 2008 and supps.). KF8205 .A76 2008 at Classified Stacks.
David S. Case & David A. Voluck, Alaska Natives and American Laws (2d ed. 2002). E78.A3 C37 2002 at Reference Area.
Encyclopedia of United States Indian Policy and Law (Paul Finkelman & Tim Alan Garrison eds., 2009). KF8205 .E525 2009 at Classified Stacks. Includes history, politics, sociology.
Indian Law Stories (Carole Goldberg et al. eds., 2011). KF8205.A2 I535 2011 at Reference Area. 17 articles by scholars and practitioners discuss notable cases, including context, participants, and subsequent impact. Catalog record includes list of chapters.
- Indian Law Reporter. KF8201.A315 at Reference Area (A second set covering 1974-91 is at Classified Stacks.)
- Includes cases on Indian law from federal, state, and tribal courts. Covers 1974-date.
The University of Washington School of Law hosts the annual Western Regional Indian Law Symposium. The printed CLE materials are found at KF8224.C6W47 at Classified Stacks & Reference Area Microfiche. Indexes to the materials cover statutes, cases, tribes, and subjects discussed.
University of Washington Law School professor Ralph Johnson was a noted Indian law scholar and advocate. He founded the UW's Native American Law Center. A bibliography of his publications is here. A profile by David W. Getches is at 72 Wash. L. Rev. 995 (1997), available on Hein Online (UW Restricted).
For a national overview, see Piecing Together the State-Tribal Tax Puzzle (2005), from the National Conference of State Legislatures. For Washington State, see the Washington State Dep't of Revenue's Indian Guide to Washington State Excise Taxes (2004). PDF & HTML
Most treaties between the United States and Indian tribes were compiled in volume 7 of United States Statutes at Large; some treaties are in volumes 1-16.
(The photograph is of a is treaty signing by William T. Sherman and the Sioux at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, photographed by Alexander Gardner, 1868. From National Archives American Indian Select List number 30.)
Treaties are compiled in Charles J. Kappler, ed., Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties. This set is commonly referred to as "Kappler." KF8203 1903 at Reference Area
- 7-vol. set, plus 1975 supplement
- Volume 2 reprints U.S. Government treaties with Native Americans from 1778 to 1883.
- Volumes 1 and 3-7 contain U.S. laws and executive orders concerning Native Americans from 1871-1970.
Online editions, which can be searched and browsed, include:
Westlaw's FNAM-EXEC file includes ratified and unratified treaties.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has digitized a collection of Early Recognized Treaties with American Indian Nations, which supplements the treaties found in Kappler.
Other finding aids include:
- List of Indian Treaties (Committee print).
KF8201.A55I57 1964 at Reference Office
Treaties are listed by date and in alphabetical listing.
- A Chronological List of Treaties and Agreements Made by Indian Tribes with the United States. KF8202.A73 I572 at Reference Office
- Charles D. Bernholz, Kappler Revisited: An Index and Bibliographic Guide to American Indian Treaties. KF8203 2003 at Classified Stacks
- Governor's Office of Indian Affairs, Treaties
- Treaties with American Indians: An Encyclopedia of Rights, Conflicts, and Sovereignty. KF8203.6.T74 2008 at Reference Area
Treaty of Point Elliott, 12 Stat. 927 (1855), 2 Kappler 669. Also called "Treaty with the Dwamish &c. Indians" or "Treaty with the Dwamish, Suquamish, etc." It was signed by (or signed with the "mark" of) representatives of fifteen tribes or bands, including the Lummi and the Skagit tribes.
(The first page of the Point Elliott treaty is pictured here. Image from Washington Secretary of State.)
Treaty of Medicine Creek, 10 Stat. 1132 (1854), 2 Kappler 661. Also called "Treaty with the Nisquallys, &c."Treaty of Point No Point, 12 Stat. 933 (1855), 2 Kappler 674. Also called "Treaty with S'Klallam."
Treaty of Neah Bay, 12 Stat. 939 (1855), 2 Kappler 682. This is the treaty with the Makah Tribe. Sometimes known as the Stevens Treaty, because it was signed by Gov. Isaac Stevens.Treaty with the Yakama Nation, 12 Stat. 951 (1855), 2 Kappler 698.
Treaty of Olympia, 12 Stat. 971 (1855), 2 Kappler 719. "Treaty between the United States and the Qui-nai-elt and Quil-leh-ute Indians."Treaty with the Walla Walla, 12 Stat. 945 (1855), 2 Kappler 694.
U.S. National Archives, Documents Relating to the Negotiation of Ratified and Unratified Treaties with Various Tribes of Indians 1801-69. Available at the UW's Suzzallo Library's Microform Collection (Microfilm A8207). Included in this collection are handwritten transcripts of the treaty negotiations/proceedings.
Consists of 10 microfilm reels, containing the following:
- Introduction and ratified treaties, 1801-26
- Ratified treaties, 1827-32
- Ratified treaties, 1833-37
- Ratified treaties, 1838-53
- Ratified treaties, 1854-55
- Ratified treaties, 1856-63
- Ratified treaties, 1864-68
- Unratified treaties, 1821-65
- Unratified treaties, 1866-67
- Unratified treaties, 1868-69
Hint: The best way to find the underlying treaty proceeding documents for a particular tribe's treaty is to focus on the date it was signed and whether it was ratified. For instance, Treaty of Neah Bay (the Makah Treaty) was signed on January 31, 1855, and it was ratified, so the underyling treaty proceedings can be found on Reel 5.
- Western Washington Treaty Proceedings. KFW505.6.T7L38 1977 at Classified Stacks
- Includes a copy (typewritten) of the official transcript - covering the period from December 7, 1854, through January 26, 1855 - of the Stevens Treaty Commission in Western Washington.
The transcript of the proceedings for the Treaty of Point No Point was excerpted in Pacific Northwest Quarterly (The Indian Treaty of Point No Point, Pac. Nw. Q., April 1955, at 54).
Western Washington University's Center for Pacific Northwest Studies includes in its Northwest Ethnohistory Collection a number of materials relating to Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest, treaty papers among them.
Separately published codes available at the Gallagher Law Library or on the Internet include:
Tribes in Washington State:
- Colville Tribal Law & Order Code. KF8228.C844A5 2005 at Classified Stacks & Internet
- Jamestown S'Klallam Tribal Code. Internet
- Kalispel Tribe Law and Order Code. Internet
- Lummi Nation Code of Laws. Internet
- Makah Law and Order Code. Internet
- Nisqually Tribal Code, 2003. Internet
- Puyallup Tribe of Indians Laws. Internet
- Quinault Tribal Code. KF8228.Q6A5 1991 at Classified Stacks
- Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe ordinances and codes. Internet
- Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe Law and Order Code. KF8228.S228 A5 at Classified Stacks & Internet
- Skokomish Tribal Code. KF8228.S64A5 2003 at Classified Stacks & Internet
- Snoqualmie Tribal Code. Internet
- Squaxin Island Tribal Code. Internet
- Suquamish Tribal Code. KF8228.S85A5 1991 at Classified Stacks
- Swinomish Tribal Code. Internet
- Tulalip Ordinances & Codes. Internet
- Yakama Nation Revised Law and Order Codes. KF8228.Y3 A5 2000 at Classified Stacks
- Cherokee Nation Code Annotated. KF8228.C5A5 1993 at Classified Stacks
- Navajo Nation Code Annotated. KF8228.N3 A5 2005 at Classified Stacks
For other tribes, search the Law Library catalog for keywords: trib* and code. Note that some tribal codes do not use the word "tribe" or "tribal" in their titles, so you should also search by the tribe's name, e.g., Cherokee Nation, Mille Lacs Band.
Collections of tribal codes on the Internet are available at:
- the Native American Constitution and Law Digitization Project at the University of Oklahoma
Additional (out-of-date) tribal codes are available in two older microfiche compilations published by the Gallagher Law Library:
- Ralph W. Johnson, ed., Indian Tribal Codes: A Microfiche Collection of Indian Tribal Law Codes (1988). KF8220.I57J6 1988 at Reference Area. Includes codes from 61 tribes.
- Ralph W. Johnson, ed., Indian Tribal Codes: A Microfiche Collection of Indian Tribal Law Codes (1981). KF8220.I57J6 at Reference Area. Includes codes from 59 tribes.
The originals of the codes in the microfiche sets are at the National Indian Law Library.
Montana Indian Law is a comprehensive portal to the laws of Montana tribes. Includes Assiniboine & Sioux, Blackfeet, Chippewa Cree, Confederated Salish & Kootenai, Crow, Fort Belknap, Little Shell, and Northern Cheyenne.
LexisNexis also has a collection of Montana tribal code: Blackfeet, Chippewa-Cree, Crow, Ft. Belknap, Ft. Peck, Northern Cheyenne, Salish & Kootenai. Path: Area of Law - By Topic > Native American Law > Find Statutes & Legislative Materials > By State > Montana Tribal Codes, Constitutions and Court Rules.
Tribal constitutions are often included in tribal codes. For separately published constitutions, search the Law Library catalog.
For constitutions on the web, see:
- the Native American Constitution and Law Digitization Project
- the National Tribal Justice Resource Center
For information about tribal courts, see:
- National Tribal Justice Resource Center (project of the National Indian Court Judges Association, Albuquerque, NM)
- Tribal Court Clearinghouse (project of the Tribal Law and Policy Institute, West Hollywood, CA)
There is no comprehensive source for tribal court decisions. Selected tribal courts are covered in:
- Indian Law Reporter (1974-date)
- West's American Tribal Law Reporter (1997-date)
- Tribal Court Appellate Decisions: Northwest Intertribal Court System (v. 1-5) and Tribal Appellate Court Opinions: Northwest Regional Appellate Courts (v. 6- ), KF8220.A515 at Reference Area (1988-date)
In addition, some tribal courts' decisions are available on LexisNexis, VersusLaw, or Westlaw. See chart.
For session laws, see the collection in Kappler, Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties.
Most laws relating to Indians are codified in Title 25 of the United States Code.
Selected laws relating to Native Americans are listed by the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness.
Executive Orders and Proclamations
- Executive Orders Relating to Indian Reservations 1855-1902. KF6015.A5F4 at Classified Stacks
- Available on LexisNexis: Area of Law By Topic > Native American Law > Administrative Materials & Regulations > Executive Order[s] Pertaining to Native American People, from 1854.
- Available on LexisNexis: Area of Law By Topic > Native American Law > Administrative Materials & Regulations > Presidential Proclamations Pertaining to Native American People, from 1879.
- Available on Westlaw: FNAM-EXEC. Contains executive orders and proclamations.
Most regulations relating to Indians are codified in Title 25 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
The National Indian Law Library issues an Indian Law Bulletin - U.S. Regulatory Information, with news about recently issued notices and proposed regulations.
- Available at University of Oklahoma.
- Available on LLMC Digital (UW Restricted). Retrieve by citation.
- Available on LexisNexis: Area of Law By Topic > Native American Law > Cases and Court Rules > Native American Solicitor's Opinions.
- Available on Westlaw: FNAM-EXEC.
- Most of the opinions in this set were not published in the Decisions of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Opinions from 1993 to date are on the Internet at [Couldn't find 12/6/07]
- This set prints decisions from the Interior Board of Land Appeals, Interior Board of Indian Appeals, and Interior Board of Contract Appeals.
- It also includes selected Solicitor General opinions, some of which concern Indians, e.g., "The Scope of Indian preference Under the Indian Reorganization Act, 6/10/88, 96 I.D. 1.
- With variations in the title, covers 1909-94 (publication ceased in 1994)..
- Note that there are separate tables for Decisions and Opinions.
- Available on LLMC Digital Retrieve by citation.
- Available on LexisNexis: Area of Law By Topic > Native American Law > Cases and Court Rules > Department of Interior Board of Indian Appeals Decisions.
- Available on Westlaw: FNAM-IBIA, from 1970.
Sarch the LLMC Digital collection of executive department materials, including Interior decisions.
The BIA website links to a variety of federal agency sites concerning Indian issues.
(The BIA's site was very limited for several years because of a pending lawsuit, Cobell v. Norton, a case challenging BIA's management of Indian trust funds. In May 2008 a court order enabled BIA to restore content to the site.)
- Vols. 1-9 in microfiche. KF8208.A55U5 at Reference Area Microfiche
- Vol. 9, p. 457- Vol. 43 in paper. KF8208.A55U5 at Reference Area
- Available on LLMC Digital (UW Restricted). Retrieve by citation.
Indexes to Decisions
- United States Indian Claims Commission Final Report (1979) includes an index to all of the decisions through the Commission's close in 1978. KF8208.A56 1979 at Reference Area
- Native American Rights Fund, Index to Indian Claims Commission Decisions (covers to 1976). KF8208.A55U52 at Reference Area
- Norman A. Ross, ed., Index to the Decisions of the Indian Claims Commission (covers to 1973). KF8208.A55U525 at Reference Area
- Norman A. Ross, ed., Index to Expert Testimony Before the Indian Claims Commission: The Written Reports. KF8208.A58R67 1973 at Reference Area
- Expert Testimony Before the Indian Claims Commission, microfiche set available at Suzzallo Library (Microforms Newspapers, Microfiche M-436).
Legislative HistoryRobert W. Barker & Alice Ehrenfeld, comps., Legislative History of the Indian Claims Commission Act of 1946. KF8208.A31A162 at Reference Area Microfiche
The Indian Claims Commission's original records are held by the National Archives and Records Administration.
The BIA website links to a variety of federal agency sites concerning Indian issues.
The Internal Revenue Service has Tax Information for Tribal Governments.
FirstGov's For Tribal Governments and Native Americans page links to federal websites for information on education, jobs, and economic development; family and health; housing; land and the environment; legislative and legal resources; and other resources.
Many federal and state cases are published in the Indian Law Reporter.
Westlaw collects federal Indian law cases into special databases: FNAM-SCT (Supreme Court), FNAM-CTA (Courts of Appeals), FNAM-DCT (district courts), and all of those together (FNAM-CS). For state cases, use state databases (e.g., WA-CS) and the Indians topic (TO(209)).
American Indian Quarterly (Westlaw AIQ, 3/2000-)
Cherokee Phoenix and Indian Advocate (Westlaw CHERPINDA, 3/2000-)
Indian Country Today (Oneida, NY) (Westlaw INDCTRYTYNY, 12/2001-)
Indian Country Today (Rapid City, SD) (Westlaw INDCTRYTYSD, 5/1997-12/2001)
Navajo Times (Westlaw NAVAJOTMS, 1/2000-)