Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Law Library

Federal Indian Law

This research guide is designed to assist attorneys and scholars in researching federal Indian law.  Federal Indian law includes the statutes, regulations, court decisions, treaties, and executive orders that control intergovernmental relationships among Indian tribes, the United States, and the fifty states.  Finally, the guide offers sources for current awareness in federal Indian law, including updates on case law, legislation, and legal news.



Treatises & Other General Works

Felix S. Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law (Nell Jessup Newton ed., American Indian Law Center 2012)

Cohen’s Handbook on Federal Indian Law is the authoritative treatise in the field. It includes a broad overview of the field of Indian law, as well as in-depth coverage of such topics as the sovereignty and organization of tribal governments, tribal civil and criminal jurisdiction, environmental regulation in Indian Country, child welfare, gaming, water rights, cultural resources, and economic development. 

The Encyclopedia of Native American Legal Tradition (Brice Elliott Johansen ed., Greenwood Press 1998)

The Encyclopedia of Native American Legal Tradition provides detailed descriptions of several major Native American tribes’ legal and political systems, including the Iroquois, Cherokee, Choctaw, Cheyenne, Creek, Chickasaw, Comanche, Sioux, Pueblo, Mandan, Huron, Powhatan, and Mikmaq.  It also contains outlines of many major Indian law cases, congressional acts, and treaties, and includes profiles of individuals important to the evolution of Indian law.

Reference Encyclopedia of the American Indian (Barry T. Klein, Todd Publications)

The Reference Encyclopedia of the American Indian lists thousands of research resources, including source listings, books, and publications.  The text’s Source Listing section is particularly useful, and is divided into subsections, which include Reservations and Tribal Councils, Government Agencies, National Associations and Organizations, and Museums, Monuments and Parks.  This section of the book provides the address, phone number, and a brief description of activities and pertinent information for each source.  It is an excellent compilation of the contact information for the 552 federally recognized tribes, which are listed by state, as well as the various state and federal agencies that regulate Indian law.

The Restatement of the Law Third, The Law of American Indians
The Restatement of the Law Third, The Law of American Indians is still in draft form. It covers federal/tribal relations, state/tribal relations, and jurisdiction issues.  It is available on HeinOnline (on campus or ASURITE).

Journals & Newsletters

American Indian Law Review

The American Indian Law Review, published biannually since 1973 by the University of Oklahoma College of Law, is a specialized law review that focuses exclusively on issues relating to Indian law.  It offers articles by authorities on Native American legal and cultural issues, student notes and comments, addresses by noted speakers, and recent developments of interest to tribal attorneys and scholars in Indian law. 

Tribal Law Journal

The Tribal Law Journal is an online law journal that focuses on the internal law of indigenous nations, and is published by the University of New Mexico School of Law.  The Journal includes information on tribal court cases, tribal systems, the development of tribal law, the value of tribal law, and tribal teachings. 

Native American Rights Fund Legal Review

The Native American Rights Fund Legal Review is a newsletter published biannually by the Native American Rights Fund (NARF).  The Legal Review reports on NARF’s programs and activities, as well as on legal developments relating to Indian law. 

  • The Legal Review is available on the NARF website (1972-current). 


Legislation, Regulations, & Court Decisions



United States Statutes at Large

The Statutes at Large is the permanent collection of all laws and resolutions enacted during each session of Congress, prepared and published by the Office of the Federal Register.  Laws are published in order of the date of their enactment. 

United States Code

The United States Code is the codification by subject matter of the laws of the United States.  It is divided into fifty-four subject titles; Title 25 pertains to Indians. 


Code of Federal Regulations

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is the codification of the general and permanent rules of the executive departments and agencies of the federal government.  Most federal regulations applying to Indians are found in Title 25 of the Code of Federal Regulations; regulations contained in Title 25 are promulgated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Arts and Crafts Board, National Indian Gaming Commission, Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation, Indian Health Service, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, and Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians.

  • The Official CFR is accessible on the U.S. Government Printing Office Federal Digital System website (1996-present). The U.S. Government Printing Office also offers the e-CFR, which although unofficial, is the most current resource for federal regulations (current).  HeinOnline (1938-present, on campus or ASURITE) and both WestlawNext and Lexis Advance have the CFR available (password required). 

Court Decisions


Westlaw and Lexis Advance (password required)

Westlaw and Lexis Advance offer excellent access to court decisions and are the best resource for accessing current cases decided by the Supreme Court, federal courts of appeals, federal district courts, and federal claims courts related to Indian law.

Indian Law Reporter

The Indian Law Reporter is a loose-leaf service, issued monthly, since 1974.   It reports cases, usually in full-text, from federal, state, and tribal courts, as well as agency decisions.  The Reporter is organized into eight sections: United States Supreme Court opinions and proceedings; United States Courts of Appeals opinions; United States District Court opinions; United States Court of Federal Claims; state court opinions; tribal court opinions; and miscellaneous proceedings, including U.S. Tax and Bankruptcy Court decisions, Interior Board of Indian Affairs decisions, and Interior Board of Land Appeals decisions.  Each volume has a table of cases and topical index.  The National Indian Law Library has created a cumulative index, available in print and online, of the tribal court opinions for all volumes of the Reporter.

Landmark Indian Law Cases (William S. Hein & Co., 2002)

Landmark Indian Law Cases reprints the full text of 53 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the field of federal Indian Law.  The book arranges the cases in chronological order, beginning with the three cases known as the Marshall Trilogy and ending with the 2002 case of Nevada v. Hicks.  It also includes an alphabetical index of cases as well as a subject index, which is a particularly useful reference tool.  Opinions with West headnotes have been added to all of the cases.

Digest of Decisions Relating to Indian Affairs (Kenneth S. Murchison ed., Kraus Reprint Co. 1973)

The Digest of Decisions Relating to Indian Affairs is a compilation of historic federal, state, and territorial court decisions, and was created to aid the executive departments of the government with questions relating to Indian affairs.  The digest organizes the decisions into three articles: I. Jurisdiction and Government of Indians and Indian Country, II. Land Titles and Treaties, and III. Status of Tribes and Individuals.  It has a useful index of all the court decisions arranged by subject.

Federal Indian Law Court Decisions, Tribal Law and Policy Institute

The Tribal Law and Policy Institute, a Native-American operated organization focused on enhancing justice in Indian Country, has provided links to summaries of Indian law cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court from 1991 through current on its website.  The Institute website also has information concerning Indian law cases currently pending before the Supreme Court. 

Google Scholar

Google Scholar provides access to federal case law, including cases on Indian law topics. To search for cases, check the "Case law" box on the main screen before running a search.


Legislative History, Library of Congress

The Library of Congress website provides a plethora of legislative information, including the text of bills, past versions of bills, and bill history. 


FDsys, United States Government Printing Office

The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) FDsys website also provides legislative information.  The “Advanced Search” option allows particular government publications to be searched, including the Congressional Record, committee reports, and hearings. 


U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News (St. Paul, MN: West, 1941ā€current)

The U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN) is a compilation of presidential proclamations and executive orders, committee reports, information on the status of legislation, and the full text of Public Laws signed during the reporting period.

  • USCCAN is available in print in the Law Library’s Law Core section and online through Westlaw (password required).

U.S. Congressional Documents, HeinOnline (on campus or ASURITE)

HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Documents library provides access to a variety of Congressional resources including the Congressional Record, and committee hearings.


U.S. Federal Legislative History Library, HeinOnline (on campus or ASURITE)

HeinOnline’s U.S. Federal Legislative History library contains more than 400 full-text compiled legislative histories.  The compiled histories include documents such as bills, committee hearings, Congressional Record sections, and House and Senate Reports.  The library can be searched by keyword as well as by bill number, author, document date, document title, popular name, and public law number.


ProQuest Congressional (on campus or ASURITE)

ProQuest Congressional is an excellent resource for accessing U.S. legislative information.  The database contains committee hearings, committee reports, bills, bill tracking, Congressional Indexes, the Congressional Serial Set, Congressional Research Service reports, and congressional member information, as well as access to publications including the Congressional Record, Federal Register, National Journal, and Congress Daily. Coverage is from 1789 to the present.


ProQuest Legislative Insight (on campus or ASURITE)

ProQuest Legislative Insight is a legislative history service that offers full-text compiled legislative histories.  It provides access to related bills, Congressional Record excerpts, committee hearings, committee reports, and other documents.  Coverage is from 1961 to the present.


Senate and House of Representatives websites

The U.S. Senate website offers information about Senate committees and recent Senate legislative activity on its website. 

The U.S. House of Representatives website also offers information about House committees and recent House legislative activity on its website.


Treaties & Executive Orders 


Please see the How do I Find Indian Treaties guide on the Ross-Blakley Law Library website to access a listing of resources for locating a treaty between the U.S. government and a tribe.


Executive Orders

Federal Register

The Federal Register is the official daily publication for rules, proposed rules, and notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as executive orders and other presidential documents. The text of executive orders appears in the daily Federal Register as each executive order is signed by the President.  

Code of Federal Regulations

Executive orders are annually compiled and published in Title 3 of the CFR.

ProQuest Congressional - Executive Orders 1789-present
ProQuest Congressional provides access to executive orders and presidential proclamations from 1789 to the present.

Executive Orders Relating to Indian Reservations From May 14, 1855 to July 1, 1912 (Scholarly Resources, Inc., 1975)

Executive Orders Relating to Indian Reservations, first published by the U.S. Government Printing Office in 1922, contains the text of executive orders issued between 1855 and 1912, through which large tracts of public land became reservation land.  Orders are organized geographically by the state location of reservation land, and then alphabetically by reservation name. 

Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties (Charles J. Kappler ed., US Government Printing Office 1904)

Kappler’s Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties is a seven-volume compilation of U.S. treaties, laws, and executive orders pertaining to American Indians.  Volumes 1 and 3-7 contain U.S. laws and executive orders concerning Native Americans from 1871-1970.

U.S. Presidential Library, HeinOnline

The HeinOnline U.S. Presidential Library contains a number of resources with valuable presidential information including the 22-volume Messages and Papers of the Presidents (contains messages from presidents beginning with George Washington and concluding with Herbert Hoover), Public Papers of the Presidents (the official series of presidential writings, addresses, and public remarks from 1957-present), Code of Federal Regulations Title 3 (contains the full text of presidential proclamations, executive orders, and other documents promulgated 1936-2001), and the Daily Compilation of the Presidential Documents (the official publication of materials released by the White House Press Secretary; published daily and contains presidential statements, messages, speeches, press conferences, proclamations, executive orders, and other presidential documents).


The American Presidency Project

The American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara has consolidated and organized thousands of presidential documents into a searchable database.  Resources include presidential proclamations (1789-present) and executive orders (1826-present).


Agencies, Administrative Decisions, & Attorney General Opinions


Bureau of Indian Affairs

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is part of the Department of the Interior.  It was established in 1824 and provides assistance to Native Americans and Alaska Natives. The BIA’s website offers information on its organizational structure and programs, as well as provides a document library, a news outlet, and a current tribal leader directory. 


Office of Tribal Justice

The Office of Tribal Justice (OTJ) is part of the Department of Justice and is the primary point of contact for the Department with the federally recognized Native American tribes.  The OTJ also advises the Department on legal and policy matters pertaining to American Indians.  The OTJ website provides information and resources on current issues concerning Native Americans, including criminal law, civil rights, gaming, information sharing, and consultation policies.


National Indian Gaming Commission

The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) is an independent federal agency that regulates gaming activities conducted by tribes on Indian lands.  The NIGC website links to relevant gaming laws and regulations and provides extensive information on Indian gaming including NIGC final decisions, bulletins, enforcement actions, Indian lands advisory opinions, and legislative history information related to Indian gaming, as well as gaming compacts and management contracts submitted by tribes.


Administrative Decisions

The Interior Board of Indian Appeals

The Interior Board of Indian Appeals (IBIA) is an appellate review body that issues final decisions for the Department of the Interior in appeals involving Indian matters.

The Interior Board of Land Appeals

The Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) is an appellate review body that issues final decisions for the Department of the Interior in appeals from bureau decisions relating to the use of public lands and their resources.  Appeals include decisions from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Indian Claims Commission

The Indian Claims Commission was a judicial panel established in 1946 by Congress to hear claims of Indian tribes, primarily land disputes, against the United States.  The Commission was adjourned in 1978. 

U.S Department of Justice, Solicitor General

The Solicitor General is responsible for representing the United States government before the Supreme Court.  The Solicitor General’s office supervises and conducts cases in which the United States is a party, as well as files amicus curiae briefs in cases in which the federal government has a significant interest in the legal issue.  Various Solicitor General opinions relate to Indian law. 

Department of the Interior, Office of the Solicitor

The Office of the Solicitor performs the legal work for the Department of the Interior; it provides counsel and legal representation to the Immediate Office of the Secretary of the Interior, the Assistant Secretaries, and all other bureaus and offices overseen by the Secretary. 

Attorney General Opinions


Opinions of the Attorneys General of the United States

The Attorney General represents the United States in legal matters and gives advice and opinions to the President as well as to the heads of executive departments of the federal government.  This multi-volume set contains Attorney General opinions from 1791 to 1982.


Committees & Organizations 

U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs is the committee charged with reviewing all aspects of policy, law, and administration relating to affairs of the United States with Native American tribes and people.  The Committee studies the unique problems of Native American, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska native people and proposes legislation in respect to those problems.  Additionally, all legislation proposed by Members of the Senate that specifically pertains to Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, or Alaska Natives is under the jurisdiction of the Committee. 


U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Indian and Native Alaska Affairs

The Subcommittee on Indian and Native Alaska Affairs is part of the Committee on Natural Resources.  The Committee on Natural Resources has jurisdiction over fisheries and wildlife, forest reserves and national parks, mineral resources and mining, the care and allotment of Native American lands, and relations of the United States with Native Americans and Native American tribes. 


Native American Rights Fund

The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) is a non-profit organization founded in 1970 that provides legal representation to Indian tribes, organizations, and individuals.  Its mission in to promote Native American human rights, keep both federal and state governments accountable to Native Americans, develop Indian law, and educate the public about Indian rights, laws, and issues. 

  • National Indian Law Library  NARF also maintains the National Indian Law Library, an online law library which develops and makes a vast collection of Indian law resources accessible to the public. 

National Congress of American Indians

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is an organization composed of Native American tribes and individuals that works to promote indigenous rights in the United States.


Current Awareness Resources

American Indian Report

The American Indian Report is an online magazine published by the Falmouth Institute.  It provides information on current news affecting American Indians, and has specific sections devoted to education, culture, health, government, and law. 


Indian Country Today

Indian Country Today (ICT) is a news source that publishes content on Native American issues.  ICT publishes a weekly newspaper and provides an excellent website on current topics in national Indian law, as well as topics concerning indigenous peoples internationally.  An online article archive provides access to content published since 1998. 


Indianz – Law

The Indianz – Law website lists many current legal matters affecting American Indians.  Articles listed on the site contain links to the original publication, to related stories, and to pertinent background information including legislation and court cases. 


National Indian Law Library Blog

The National Indian Law Library of the Native American Rights Fund produces this blog, which covers NARF news and events related to federal Indian law and tribal law.

Updated 8/2017


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