Exploring & Teaching Indian & Tribal Law

Wisconsin is home to many tribal nations, each with its own unique history, culture, and government. As sovereign entities, these nations have the inherent right to create, enforce, and adjudicate laws to protect and enhance the well-being of tribal members within tribal territory. This authority is an intrinsic right that has been present since time immemorial.

However, under the mainstream conception of American law, tribal governments are often overlooked. This narrow perspective fails to acknowledge the significant contributions of Native Nations, which play a vital role in shaping the legal landscape of the United States.

So, I’m pleased to share with you several recent articles that explore issues related to Indian and tribal law in Wisconsin, as well as guidance on integrating tribal law into the law school curriculum.

Wisconsin Lawyer, June 2024The June 2024 issue of Wisconsin Lawyer magazine​ from the State Bar of Wisconsin is primarily devoted to Indian and tribal law.  It begins with a helpful primer on​ Indian law, as well as discussions on the Menominee Indian Tribe’s termination and restoration, gaming compacts and their impact on sovereign immunity, Native Nation’s responses to climate change, and more.

Attorney Martina Gast served as an advisor on the issue. Gast is the founder of Pipestone Law LLC, providing employment law and human resources support to Indian tribes and tribal entities, and is a member of the Red Rock Indian Band.  Numerous members of the State Bar’s Indian Law Section also contributed their time and expertise to this project.

I also contributed an article to the State Bar’s June issue of the InsideTrack email newsletter with tips on researching tribal law.  I offer a brief introduction to tribal governance, provide links to sources of tribal law, and follow up on additional sources of information and assistance.

As an integral part of the American legal landscape, I believe that tribal law should also be an integral part of the law school curriculum.  So, I’m pleased to share that a piece I co-wrote entitled “Integrating Tribal Law into the Legal Research and Writing Curriculum: Benefits, Challenges, and Strategies” has been accepted for the upcoming edition of Perspectives, a journal about teaching legal research and writing, and is now available on SSRN.

I had the privilege of co-authoring this piece with two amazing Indigenous librarians: Amber Madole of USC Gould School of Law and Rebecca Plevel, JD, MLIS of USC School of Law. Together, we explore the benefits of incorporating tribal law into legal education.

Part one of the article presents actionable strategies for the effective integration of Tribal law into the legal research and writing curriculum – including several examples from the University of Wisconsin Law School, part two explains the importance and upsides of introducing law students to Tribal law research, and part three addresses some of the challenges. Two appendices provide curated lists of resources for further exploration of Tribal law.