Teaching Indian Law in the 21st Century
Posted: 27 Sep 2022 Last revised: 12 Oct 2022
Date Written: September 12, 2022
Since the first Indian law classes were offered in the late 1960s and early 1970s, law teachers mostly have considered the field a niche specialty, even a backwater, unnecessary to anyone not likely to go into law practice in Indian country. In those days, law teachers focused on treaty rights fights. Treaty rights are a critical but small part of Indian country practice. Lawyers in modern day Indian country handle virtually every kind of matter taught in law schools in addition to the Indian law-specific subject matters. Beginning in the 1990s, American Indian tribal nations started to become critical factors in governmental and economic activity throughout much of the United States.
In the 21st century, many law schools offer Indian law — and occasionally offer additional, specialized courses — but generally are still far behind the curve. Worse, when it is offered, the Indian law canon tends to be taught in ways that ignore contemporary tribal agency by emphasizing historical events over modern issues. Modern tribal nations make their own laws. Here I give examples of tribal court cases and tribal statutes law teachers can use to incorporate Indian law into virtually any common law course.
Keywords: Federal Indian Law, American Indian Tribal Law, tribal courts, tribal laws, pedagogy, American Indian lawyers
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