Native American Law

The United States Native American law states that the word “Indians” refers to the people who were inhabitants of the continent when the Europeans arrived to set up colonies. Native American law goes on to state the words “band” or “tribe” be used in reference to groups of Indians who were under the same government or leadership, inhabited the same territory and/or had the same heritage. 

The United States Native American law also states that the Indian bands can govern themselves and are only subject to any federal authority or law that would override their law. The United States Native American law states that Indian bands are “domestic, dependent nations.” The reason they are to be subordinate to the United States federal authority is for their protection from the states in which they reside.

Many people are choosing to pursue and education in Native American law. Schools and law centers that focus on Native American Law are interested in promoting the Native American people. They encourage Native Americans to become educated so they can be a resource to their tribe and government.

Coursework in Native American law includes exploring the relationship of the Indians with the United States federal government, Indian civil rights, power of the Indian government, as well as Indian lands, Bureau of Indian Affairs, conflicts of the Indians with state and federal authorities and more. American Indian law also goes beyond this.

American Indian law is becoming very complicated. As more Indian bands become more influential their laws are making a great impact on the regions in which they reside. This includes banking and finance, tourism, real estate, telecommunications, wholesale and retail trade, gaming and more. With the intertwining of the Native American and American communities it is important that there are lawyers who can represent the Native American peoples and their interests.

The Northwest Indian Bar Association was founded in 1991. It is a non profit group of both Native Americans and non Native Americans. It is comprised of judges, lawyers, spokespersons, as well as law students. Membership in the association is growing as many of the members are practicing law in high places, such as the state and federal government, national and regional law firms and on the Northwest Indian reservations. However, with over four million people claiming themselves as American Indians, only about three thousand of them practice law – based on the 2000 United States Census. It is hopeful that with the help of the Northwest Indian Bar Association that more American Indians will become educated and practice Native American law.

Joseph Paige 2006

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