Career Pathways: American Indian & Native Populations Law

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American Indian or Native American Law (aka Indigenous People or Tribal Law) is a complex area of law that deals with how American Indian tribes and tribal members interact with federal, state, and local governments.  Interactions may be between governments, similar to international law, or between individuals and tribal, state or federal governments.  American Indian tribes also have limited governance rights on their own lands over enrolled tribal members, and often have their own laws and court systems.   This area of law may involve treaties, statutes, and regulations at the state, federal, and local level.

Attorneys who deal with American Indian law may work for non-profits, tribes, federal agencies, and state agencies.   They may end up practicing in a variety of areas because American Indian law touches on almost every area of law.  Particularly important are environmental law, land use, zoning, gaming law, family law, and education law. To learn more about American Indian law, please visit the National Congress of American Indians, National Indian Law Library, or the Restatement of the Law of American Indians.

Job Types Typical Duties
Federal Agencies
  • Protect the rights of the indigenous population

  • Assist and provide services either directly or through contracts, grants, or compacts to American Indians and Alaska Natives

  • Manage and conserve federal land and natural resources

  • Administer of programs relating to Native Americans

  • Work on infrastructure and land use issues concerning tribal lands

State Agencies
  •  Work with tribes on permits

  • Work on law enforcement issues that occur on tribal lands

Local Government
  •  Work with tribes on permits

  • Work on law enforcement issues that occur on tribal lands

Non-profit Agencies
  •  Provide training to tribal leaders and regulators about American Indian Law

  • Advocate for the rights of tribal members

Other Activities

Curriculum Considerations

Take a look at the Law Curriculum Mapping Guide to see courses related to a career in Native American or American Indian Law.  In addition, it will help you identify faculty that you can speak to regarding this area of practice.