American Judges Association


Date of this Version



Court Review Volume 45, Issues 1-2, 32-39


Copyright © 2009 American Judges Association. Used by permission.


American Indian law commonly describes the body of law by which the United States government regulates its relationship to Indian tribes and Native American citizens. First explorations of Indian law tend to surprise and intrigue the researcher. Unique legal rules characterize the field and extensive historical research may be required. Basic legal principles that govern a factual situation involving non- Indians may not apply to an Indian-law case of similar facts. Appellate decisions may lack broad applicability because they are so closely tied to treaty language or the history of a single tribe. Questions involving Indian law are beginning to arise in new contexts and have become more complex. Specialty legislation applies to Alaska Natives and questions about the legal status of Native Hawaiians and their land rights remain unresolved. Increasingly, there are efforts to invoke international human-rights standards and to use comparative law in the analysis of domestic indigenous issues. Assumptions must be avoided in favor of careful research on every point.