Native American Law - Indigenous, Aboriginal and Minorities Law




Aboriginal, Native American, Indian, or Indigenous Peoples laws all generally refer to American laws relating to Native Americans, also known as American Indians. The variety of names reflect the controversial nature of these laws and the terms used to describe these peoples. In the American tradition the term "Indians" refers to the indigenous peoples of North America prior to European colonization. However, many American “Indians” now prefer to be referred to as “Native Americans.” Similarly, where “tribe" or "band" have historically designated a group of Indians of the same or similar heritage, Native Americans have increasingly preferred the terms "nation" or "people." This leads to an unusual complexity in the body of Native American laws because of the wide variety of synonymous terms used to describe the same peoples, social structures, and legal principles.

Moreover, Aboriginal Law is a variety of state, federal, and international law, as well as a variety of federal regulations. Much of the recent legislation and regulations in this area address both civil rights of these peoples and social programs designed to protect these unique cultures and promote economic independence. The international aspects of these laws relate to which tribes or nations a government may recognize. For examples, some states may recognize particular Indian groups even when the federal government does not. Factors like the extent of Indian governmental control over the lives of their individual members, the political coherence of the group and its control over a specified territory, and the continuity of the group's history all play a role in whether various levels of government choose to recognize the political autonomy of these groups.

Federal law allows Native Americans a kind of special sovereign autonomy, subject to an overriding federal authority, similar to the interaction between the states and the federal government. Federal law treats Indian tribes as "domestic, dependent nations." This law was enacted by Congress to protect the sovereign authority of Indian groups from state authority. This includes the sovereign authority of Indian tribal courts to decide disputes relating to Indian affairs. However, these courts lack authority over non-Indians, even if they conduct activity on an Indian reservation unless the activity threatens the welfare of the tribe.

The resources below will provide additional information about this broad and complex area of the law, and attorneys who may be able to assist you with your aboriginal law questions may be found under the “Law Firms” tab, above.

Copyright 2013 HG.org


Know Your Rights!

  • Do Native American Indians Have Special Rights?

    Do Native Americans have special rights that other American citizens do not? Yes and no.

  • Indian Gaming Laws

    Many states have small casinos associated with a Native American tribe. This often leads one to wonder why casinos are legal when associated with an Indian Tribe, but not under other circumstances. Which laws apply to these Indian casinos, as they are often called, and how are they regulated?

Articles on HG.org Related to Native American, Indigenous, Arboriginal and Minorities Law

  • All Civil Rights Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Civil Rights including: constitutional law, consumer law, discrimination, human rights, native populations, privacy law, public law and sexual harassment.

Native American, Indian and Minorities Law - US

  • American Indian Law - Overview

    In U.S. law the term "Indians" refers generally to the indigenous peoples of the continent at the time of European colonization. "Alaska Natives" and "Native Hawaiians" refer to peoples indigenous to the areas occupied by those named states. The terms "tribe" or "band" designate a group of Indians of the same or similar heritage united in a community under one leadership or government and inhabiting a particular territory. Because Indians have increasingly preferred "nation" or "people," the term "tribe" has become controversial. The terms used may vary from statute to statute and case to case as well.

  • American Indian Probate Reform Act

    The American Indian Probate Reform Act (AIPRA) reforms American Indian Probate rules and helps to facilitate the consolidation of Indian land ownership across the nation. The American Indian Probate Reform Act of 2004 (S. 1721) provides valuable tools to the Department of the Interior, Tribal governments, and individual Indians to facilitate the consolidation of Indian land ownership in order to restore economic viability to Indian assets. The Act amends the Indian Land Consolidation Act and amendments made in 2000.

  • American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 - State, Local and Tribal Government Capacity Building Program

    The synopsis for this grant opportunity is detailed below, following this paragraph. This synopsis contains all of the updates to this document that have been posted as of 05/11/2009 . If updates have been made to the opportunity synopsis, update information is provided below the synopsis.

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs Regional Offices

    The Bureau of Indian Affairs has regional offices around the United States that questions regarding Indian policy can be directed. Listed below are the areas and the offices to contact for that area.

  • Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA)

    ICWA is a federal law that seeks to keep American Indian children with American Indian families. ICWA sets federal requirements that apply to state child custody proceedings involving an Indian child who is a member of or eligible for membership in a federally recognized tribe.

  • Indian Health Services - US Department of Health and Human Services

    Our mission is to raise the physical, mental, social, and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level. Our goal is to assure that comprehensive, culturally acceptable personal and public health services are available and accessible to American Indian and Alaska Native people. Our Foundation... to uphold the Federal Government's obligation to promote healthy American Indian and Alaska Native people, communities, and cultures and to honor and protect the inherent sovereign rights of Tribes.

  • Indian Land Consolidation Act (ILCA)

    The mission of the program is to acquire as many fractionated interests as economically feasible; and to consolidate these land interests into tribal ownership to enable better tribal utilization and management and promote and enhance tribal self-determination, economic, social, and cultural development needs while reducing government administrative costs.

  • National Park Service (NPS) Tribal Preservation Program

    The National Park Service (NPS) Tribal Preservation Program assists Indian tribes in preserving their historic properties and cultural traditions. The program originated in 1990, when Congress directed NPS to study and report on preservation funding needs. The findings of that report, the Keepers of the Treasures--Protecting Historic Properties and Cultural Traditions on Indian Lands, are the foundation of the Tribal Preservation Program. Based on that report, Congress has appropriated annual grants for tribal preservation.

  • Native American Constitutions

    Tribal constitutions and codes are the heart of self-government for over 500 federally recognized tribes, and are the lifeblood of Indian sovereignty. The University of Oklahoma Law Center Library and the National Indian Law Library work with tribes whose government documents appear on this web site; these tribal documents are either placed online with the permission of the tribes, or they are U.S. Government documents, rightfully in the public domain.

  • Northwest Indian Bar Association (NIBA)

    The Northwest Indian Bar Association (NIBA) is a non-profit organization comprised of Indian attorneys and judges in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, and in spirit in British Columbia and the Yukon Territory, which aspires to improve the legal and political landscape for the Pacific Northwest Indian Country. The purposes and goals of NIBA are: * To represent and foster the education and welfare of Native American attorneys, paralegals and tribal court personnel of the Pacific Northwest * To provide role models and mentors in the legal profession for Indian people, particularly Native American youth and law students * To encourage and promote pro bono legal work and civic involvement that benefits Indian people on reservations and in urban areas throughout the Pacific Northwest.

  • Office of Indian Affairs

    The Office of Indian Affairs was established in 1951 by the Montana legislature to facilitate effective tribal-state communications with special attention to the discussion and resolution of issues and concerns that Indian tribes face in regard to their unique political status with the federal government, and as full citizens of the state of Montana. The Office of Indian Affairs serves the tribal-state relationship as a liaison in government-to-government relations with the purpose of promoting economic development, environmental protection, education, support for social services, and enduring good will.

  • The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990

    The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-644) is a truth-in-advertising law that prohibits misrepresentation in marketing of Indian arts and crafts products within the United States. It is illegal to offer or display for sale, or sell any art or craft product in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian or Indian Tribe or Indian arts and crafts organization, resident within the United States. For a first time violation of the Act, an individual can face civil or criminal penalties up to a $250,000 fine or a 5-year prison term, or both. If a business violates the Act, it can face civil penalties or can be prosecuted and fined up to $1,000,000.

  • Treaties Between the United States and Native Americans

    This is a list of treaties to which the United States has been a party or which have had direct relevance to U.S. history.

  • US Code - Indian Affairs

    Title 25 of the United States Code outlines the role of Indians in the United States Code.

  • US Department of the Interior - Indian Affairs

    The United States has a unique legal and political relationship with Indian tribes and Alaska Native entities as provided by the Constitution of the United States, treaties, court decisions and Federal statutes. Within the government-to-government relationship, Indian Affairs provides services directly or through contracts, grants, or compacts to 564 Federally recognized tribes with a service population of about 1.9 million American Indian and Alaska Natives.

  • US Department of the Interior - Indian Trust

    Since January 31, 2001, the Interior Department has moved on several fronts to improve the Indian trust program. The Office of Historical Trust Accounting was created to address the requirements to provide historical reconciliation of individual Indian money accounts.

  • US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

    On April 28, 1983, Senator Mark Andrews, Chairman of the Select Committee on Indian Affairs in the 98th Congress, introduced S. Res. 127 to make the committee a permanent committee. This Resolution had 28 cosponsors. On November 1, 1983, the Committee on Rules and Administration voted unanimously to report the Resolution without amendment, and the Resolution was so reported on November 2, 1983 (S. Rept. 98-294).

Indigenous, Arboriginal and Minorities Law - Europe

  • European Court of Human Rights, Protection of Civil Rights and Minorities

    Despite its widely recognized success and an abundance of legal literature on its workings and interpretations, there has been scant attention paid and research done on the actual domestic effects of the Strasbourg Court decisions, both in policy reform as well as structural change. There is a limited understanding of the ways in which their normative content may diffuse and affect national laws, institutions and administrative practices. The aim of this workshop is to begin to explore whether and how the Court’s judgments reverberate domestically (or fail to do so) in policies, structures and institutions, with a specific focus on religion-state relations, ethnic, religious or national minorities and immigrants.

  • European Network for Indigenous Australian Rights (ENIAR)

    Our aim is to promote awareness on indigenous issues and to provide information for Indigenous Australians about Europe and international organisations. ENIAR is not affiliated to any government or commercial bodies, is non profit- making and run entirely by volunteers.

  • Local Government (Amendment) Act 1993 - UK

    An Act to amend section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966 to permit grants to be made to local authorities making special provisions in exercising their functions, in consequence of the presence within their areas of persons belonging to ethnic minorities; and for connected purposes.

Indigenous, Arboriginal and Minorities Law - International

  • Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Affairs Canada

    Canada's economic and social well-being benefits from strong, self-sufficient Aboriginal and northern people and communities. Our vision is a future in which First Nations, Inuit, Métis and northern communities are healthy, safe, self-sufficient and prosperous - a Canada where people make their own decisions, manage their own affairs and make strong contributions to the country as a whole.

  • Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement (ALRM) - Australia

    Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement (ALRM) is an independent Aboriginal community controlled organisation governed by an all Aboriginal Board. The Board of 10 members is appointed from Aboriginal communities from metropolitan and country centres across South Australia.

  • International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA)

    IWGIA's overall goal is to endorse and promote indigenous peoples' right to self-determination, their cultural integrity and their right to development on their own conditions. In order to fulfil this task, IWGIA works within a wide range of areas: Documentation, publication, human rights, lobbying, advocacy, research and projects.

  • Laws and Conventions Affecting Indigenous Peoples - Asian Development Bank

    With a substantial portion of the world's indigenous peoples living in Asia and the Pacific, virtually every country in the region has an indigenous population. While the effectiveness of provisions may vary, some countries recognize the unique status of indigenous peoples and offer the privileges and protections of citizenship. Few countries have enacted laws that recognize any rights of indigenous peoples to ancestral lands, or that support indigenous peoples regaining and strengthening their social, cultural, and legal institutions. In many cases, enforcement of laws that may exist has been inadequate.

Organizations Related to Native American, Indigenous, Arboriginal and Minorities Law

  • American Indian Movement

    The American Indian Movement is attempting to connect the realities of the past with the promise of tomorrow ... They are people in a hurry, because they know that the dignity of a person can be snuffed by despair and a belt in a cell of a city jail ... They know that the deepest hopes of the old people could die with them ... They know that the Indian way is not tolerated in White America, because it is not acknowledged as a decent way to be ... Sovereignty, Land, and Culture cannot endure if a people is not left in peace ...

  • First Alaskans Institute - Alaska Native Policy Center

    The Alaska Native Policy Center (Policy Center) is a project of the First Alaskans Institute created to support the Native voice and perspective in the public policy-making process. The Policy Center connects people and ideas producing knowledge that can be used to understand and improve the lives of Alaska Natives and all Alaskans. The Policy Center uses a proactive and forward- thinking approach, a focus that is statewide, and a relationship with the Native community that helps Alaska Native leaders and other policy makers access information they can use to help achieve healthy, thriving communities.

  • National Congress of American Indians (NCAI)

    The NCAI was founded in 1944 in response to termination and assimilation policies that the United States forced upon the tribal governments in contradiction of their treaty rights and status as sovereigns. NCAI stressed the need for unity and cooperation among tribal governments for the protection of their treaty and sovereign rights. Since 1944, the National Congress of American Indians has been working to inform the public and Congress on the governmental rights of American Indians and Alaska Natives.

  • Native American Rights Fund (NARF)

    Founded in 1970, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) is the oldest and largest nonprofit law firm dedicated to asserting and defending the rights of Indian tribes, organizations and individuals nationwide. NARF's practice is concentrated in five key areas: the preservation of tribal existence; the protection of tribal natural resources; the promotion of Native American human rights; the accountability of governments to Native Americans; and the development of Indian law and educating the public about Indian rights, laws, and issues.

  • Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (NWIFC)

    The role of the NWIFC is to assist member tribes in their role as natural resources co-managers. The commission provides direct services to tribes in areas such as biometrics, fish health and salmon management to achieve an economy of scale that makes more efficient use of limited federal funding. The NWIFC also provides a forum for tribes to address shared natural resources management issues and enables the tribes to speak with a unified voice in Washington, D.C.

  • United Indians of All Tribes Foundation (UIATF)

    The United Indians of All Tribes Foundation (UIATF) was founded to serve as a focal point for this renewal and regeneration in the Greater Seattle area and beyond.

  • Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO)

    The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) is an international, nonviolent, and democratic membership organisation. Its members are indigenous peoples, minorities, and unrecognised or occupied territories who have joined together to protect and promote their human and cultural rights, to preserve their environments, and to find nonviolent solutions to conflicts which affect them.

Publications Related to Native American, Indigenous, Arboriginal and Minorities Law

  • Agreements, Treaties and Negotiated Settlements Project (ATNS) - Australia

    The Agreements, Treaties and Negotiated Settlements (ATNS) project is an ARC Linkage project examining treaty and agreement-making with Indigenous Australians and the nature of the cultural, social and legal rights encompassed by past, present and potential agreements and treaties. The project also examines the process of implementation and the wider factors that promote long term sustainability of agreement outcomes.

  • American Indian Law Review

    First produced in 1973, the American Indian Law Review is published biannually by the Oklahoma College of Law. This unique review offers articles by authorities on American Indian 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. The Review is produced by an independent staff of law students.

  • National Indian Law Library (NILL)

    The National Indian Law Library (NILL) is a public law library devoted to federal Indian and tribal law. Our mission is to develop and make accessible a unique and valuable collection of Indian law resources and other information relating to Native Americans. NILL places special emphasis on fulfilling the information needs of Indian law advocates and others working on behalf of Native Americans.

  • The Indigenous World 2006

    Over the past 35 years, IWGIA has published one of the most comprehensive collections of documentation and reflection on indigenous peoples' struggle for survival and recognition. IWGIA continues to be at the forefront of reflecting the most significant issues of concern to indigenous peoples. IWGIA's publications are published on a non-profit basis.


Find a Local Lawyer