Starting Out: Finding Background Information
You should begin your tribal law research project by first finding some background information about the tribe’s legal system. This will give you an idea about the types of primary sources you will need to locate: constitutions, treaties, codes, court decisions, and customary or traditional law. Listed below are sources for this type of information.
United States Tribal Courts Directory
April Schwartz and Mary Jo B. Hunter
Provides state-by-state information on tribal courts including contacts, areas of jurisdiction and publication information for tribal opinions and codes.
Tribal Leaders Directory (Bureau of Indian Affaris)
Lists date tribe was recognized, restored or reaffirmed; criminal jurisdiction; court; organization status/corporate charter; liquor ordinance with Federal Register Citations.
Finding the Text of Codes
Free Web Resources
- National Indian Law Library (NILL) Tribal Law Gateway: Codes Provides information and links to tribal codes and constitutions in the NILL library catalog as well as their comprehensive online collection.
- Tribal Court Clearinghouse Provides links to tribal codes and constitutions as well as model codes.
- Library of Congress Indigenous Law Portal This resource from the Law Library of Congress provides information on tribal law for tribes throughout the United States. It brings together collection materials from the Law Library of Congress as well as links to tribal websites and primary source materials found on the Web. Tribal information includes constitutions and codes, and can be browsed by region, state, and alphabetically.
Lexis & Westlaw
LexisNexis and Westlaw combined have more than a dozen tribal codes on their databases. To see a current list of the codes on each of these sites go to the NILL Tribal Law Gateway: Codes site.
Finding the Text of Tribal Court Decisions
Indian Law Reporter and Cumulative Subject Index to the Tribal Court Cases
The Indian Law Reporter is a print publication of the American Indian Lawyer Training Program. It provides access to a selected set of court opinions and other materials related to Indian law, including those of tribal courts. While each volume has its own subject index, the publisher has yet to create a cumulative index to all of the volumes. NILL created a cumulative index just to the tribal court opinions; the index is available on the NILL website.
Northwest Intertribal Court System (NICS)
Provides an appellate court forum and appellate court opinions for Indian nations based in the Puget Sound region of the Pacific Northwest: Chehalis Confederated Tribes, Muckleshoot Tribe, Port Gamble SKlallam Tribe, Sauk-Suiattle Tribe, Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe, Skokomish Tribal Nation, Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians, and The Tulalip Tribes. This resource is also available in print in the Law Library.
Free Web Resources
- Tribal Court Clearinghouse--Includes decisions from 21 tribal courts.
- ASU Indian Law Portal--Go to “Find Resources on this Website”, choose “Cases” in “Search by Subject” and click on “Find It” to locate additional resources for tribal decisions.
|Lexis & Westlaw
To see a current list of the tribal decisions on each of these sites visit the Westlaw Database Directory and the Lexis Database Directory.
This is a subscription database that includes tribal opinions from over 20 Indian nations, including the Fort McDowell Yavapai, Hualapai, Hopi, and Navajo tribes in Arizona.