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American Indian Law: A Beginner's Guide

Tribal Law

American Indian tribal law is distinct from federal American Indian law. While federal Indian laws govern the relationship between tribes and the federal and state governments, tribal laws cover the inner workings of specific tribes. Each tribe has its own laws and government, which are structured similarly to the federal three-branch system. For example, a tribe may have an executive division (headed by a governor, president, or chief), a legislature (a tribal council) and a judicial branch (a tribal court). Tribal laws are developed by tribes or Indian nations, and apply to their members and to individuals within tribal territories.

Sam Attahvich and United States Office of Indian Affairs, contributors. Indian Tribes, Reservations and Settlements in the United States. 1939. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

With over 570 federally-recognized tribes across the United States, it can be challenging to find tribal laws, which are not published in a consolidated resource. Over the last several years, tribes, universities, and libraries have worked to make these legal materials more accessible. A good starting point for researchers who are new to studying tribal law is the National Indian Law Library's Tribal Law Gateway External. This website has links to legal resources organized by tribe and material type, such as codes, constitutions, and court opinions.

Below you will find a list of books and periodicals in the Library of Congress related to American Indian tribal law.

The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.

Books

Periodicals

The following resources link to freely available information about American Indian tribal law.