Excerpted from: Joe Leavengood, Finding the Law on the
Rez: an Overview of Researching Indian Law in Idaho and on the
Internet , 46-MAR Advocate (Idaho) 28-30 (March, 2003)
It has been said that modern Mexico has skipped a technological
generation by going from no phones straight to cell phones. In large
measure, Indian law has done the same, going from relatively few printed
materials to a solid collection of materials available only on the
Internet. Here are some online resources to consider:
My library school is Emporia
State University, which, while based in Kansas, teaches classes around
the West for states that have no library schools. I'm not sure why the
people in Kansas are so into their librarianship, but two of the best
sites for Indian law are also from the Flint Hills of Eastern Kansas,
out of Washburn University of Kansas University:
Washburn University, which put Cohen's entire book online, ,maintains
an Indian Law website called Native American Web: http://
Washburn's Law Library has for a while now had a reputation for
taking advantage of the latest technologies for getting researchers to
their information. This site reflects Washburn's comprehensive nature,
including even links to listservs for Indian law practitioners and
researchers. It includes links to places that practitioners will find
useful, but which librarians and webpage designers wouldn't necessarily
think of--such as Department of Justice programs, and resources for
American Indians interested in studying law. If I didn't already know
where to find what I'm looking for, I'd start here.
The University of Kansas School of Law Library weighs in at http://
I'm sure many librarians would consider this a great site. It
includes a list of materials in the KU library, with finding aids that
can help you spot other similar materials. KU apparently put a little
thought into its collection, adding
books such as the Navajo Nation Code, frequently used by practitioners
not just in the Southwest, but also as a comparison tool for other
tribes in developing their own codes. Right on the same page as the
printed materials are links to a variety of other sources and tools.
The Native American Rights Fund's National Indian Law Library can be
found online at http://www.narf.org/nill/research/secondarylaw.htm.
This Boulder, Colorado library, provides the most comprehensive site
on Indian law, and it may be just too much for some researchers.
Although I've never had occasion to use it, NILL provides an
ask-a-librarian service (via the website) or via telephone at
303-447-8760. Because NARF weighs in on many Indian Law Issues, there
are potential conflict of interest concerns, but NILL operates
separately for the most part. Its website links are comprehensive and
organized by subtopics within Indian law. For example, there are lists
of links to items on Indian gaming, mascots, trust funds, grave sites,
and the all important matter of Indian Country jurisdiction. The website
also provides a descriptive list of general reference materials on
American Indians today. NARF also provides a number of publications
addressing various areas of Indian law, and both a collection and index
to Indian Claims Commission Decisions (1946 to 1978).
The Tribal Law and Policy
Center has developed the Tribal Court Clearinghouse at http://www.tribal-institute.org/lists/about.htm.
If you are looking for materials from a particular tribe, this is your
best bet. However, while the listings include hundreds of tribes, they
still have some significant gaps, such as anything Navajo, or any thing
from Idaho's tribes other than the Nez Perce. There are great materials
here on model tribal codes and on environmental codes. (Federal
environmental laws allow tribes to develop environmental codes and
standards much as if they were states to regulate air and water in
Indian Country, so this area has spurred more tribal codification than
any other administrative area of law).
We're From The Government And We're Here To Help
Two government agencies maintain Indian law resources sites:
The Library of Congress is at http://www.loc.gove/law/guide/usnative.html.
This is not the comprehensive list that you might expect. Its greatest
value might be its list of agencies and organizations, and its list of
links to other research sites, that is as comprehensive as Washburn
The Department of the Interior, which encompasses the Bureau of
Indian Affairs, maintains a site at http://www.doi.gov/diversity/8indian.htm.
This is a fairly comprehensive list, with descriptions of the
material at each link, but not organized by subject or type. It can be
of value if you have not found your
materials elsewhere and have time to browse.
Best Of The Rest
The University of Montana School of Law has a site at: www.umt.edu/lawinsider/library/lawbysub/nativeam.htm
This collection of Indian law links is quite comprehensive, with links
to administrative agencies having a role in Indian law, various tribal
codes and rules in the region, associations, and special collections.
Always a good source of case law is Cornell University School of Law,
Cornell began as a school to educate Indians, and its print collection
is probably the deepest in the East. Its law school has a reputation
similar to Washburn's for finding materials and getting them online. Its
site has a lot of good links as well.
Judicare has a site at http://www.judicare.org/ilobooks.html
This is an interesting collection of books on Indian law, history and
culture, with links to outlets. These are the books the law libraries
ought to have if they had the budgets, starting with the American Indian
Desk Book, and American Indian Law in a Nutshell, described above.
Law Guru maintains an internet law library at http://
This site provides some tribe-specific materials not easily found
elsewhere, but does not describe or
organize its contents. It is a good tool for those with time to browse.
Research In General On American Indians
There are a number of sites that are good starting points for
researching American Indian matters in general. Remember, it is not just
the law that makes the case in Indian law. James Madison University
(Virginia) has such a general site at http://falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/native.htm.
A private organization site that serves indigenous organizations
globally is NativeWeb, at http://
www.nativeweb.org/. The American Indian Heritage Foundation
maintains a site at http://www.indians.org/index.html,
but while it may include more information in the future, many of its
links currentlylead to dead ends. The Fourth World Documentation
Project, at http://www.cwis.org/fwdp.html
provides documents about indigenous people in North America and beyond.
Remember, in Indian law, the answers are there, but sometimes hidden
in more than cases and statutes. For one of my firm's issues in New
Mexico, our search for evidence sent a partner to the archives of UNAM,
the National Autonomous University of Mexico, in Mexico City. He found
and photocopied a land grant signed by Queen Isabella, which we
introduced in a reservation boundary case, about 485 years after it was
JOE LEAVENGOOD, JD MBA MA, is from the Southwest, in equal parts from
Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado.