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Federal Native American and Tribal Law: Getting Started

Land Acknowledge Statement--Loyola University Chicago

The Loyola University Chicago community acknowledges its location on the ancestral homelands of the Council of the Three Fires (the Ojibwa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi tribes) and a place of trade with other tribes, including the Ho-Chunk, Miami, Menominee, Sauk, and Meskwaki. We recognize that descendants of these and other North American tribes continue to live and work on this land with us. We recognize the tragic legacy of colonization, genocide, and oppression that still impacts Native American lives today. As a Jesuit university, we affirm our commitment to issues of social responsibility and justice. We further recognize our responsibility to understand, teach, and respect the past and present realities of local Native Americans and their continued connection to this land.


The Law Library has a wide array of resources in both print and electronic formats that can help with researching the federal law of Native Americans. There are also many useful websites listed in this guide that are specific to the field. In addition, the guide lists “current awareness” sources that researchers may utilize to keep abreast of legal developments. 

Researchers should keep in mind the various terminology utilized to describe this area, including Native American Law, Indigenous Law, Federal Indian Law, Indians of North America, etc. Specific tribes, or groups of tribes, may also have different descriptors, such as Creek (Muskogee). 

The Newberry Library

The Newbery Library in Chicago houses the Edward E. Ayer Collection, which is one of the richest collections of Native American materials in the United States. The Newberry is also home to the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies, which was founded in 1972. 

Federal Indian Law for Alaska Tribes

This online course serves as an introduction to Federal Indian Law, focusing on modern Alaskan tribal governments. The course also includes an overview of the "General Principles of Federal Indian Law." The course was compiled at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. 

Research Guides & FAQs for Federal Indian Law

Study Aids

The following are study aids that focus on Native American Law. These are available through the Law Library's subscription to West Academic Study Aids or through our subscription to LexisNexis Digital Library. A current Loyola Law ID and password are required to access these study aids.

National Congress of American Indians (NCAI)

The NCAI was founded in 1944. According to its website, "The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is the oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization serving the broad interests of tribal governments and communities." The website contains an array of resources related to the law of Native Americans; see, e.g., under "Resources" and "Policy Issues." 

Cohen's Federal Indian Law

Felix S. Cohen (1907-1953) is known as the "father of Federal Indian Law."  He joined the U.S. Department of the Interior Solicitor's Office in 1933 and drafted the first edition of the Handbook of Federal Indian Law in 1941. 

The treatise is now available on Lexis Advance as Cohen's Handbook of Federal Indian Law and is updated regularly. 

Native Indian Law Library

The National Indian Law Library (NILL) of the Native American Rights Fund is a law library devoted to federal Indian and tribal law. According to its website, "NILL maintains a unique and valuable collection of Indian law resources and assists people with their Indian law-related research needs". The library itself is located in Boulder, Colorado. 

Restatement of the Law: The American Indian (forthcoming 2022)

At the 2021 Annual Meeting of the American Law Institute (ALI), the membership voted to approve the Proposed Final Draft of this Restatement, marking the end of the project. The official text is available to current members of the Loyola community through the Law Library's subscription to HeinOnline. A detailed description of the project is available on the ALI website.