Georgetown Law
Georgetown Law Library

Native American Law Research Guide

This guide includes a selection of legal, governmental, and public policy resources in various formats on Native American law.


Key to Icons

  • Georgetown only
  • On Westlaw
  • On Lexis
  • On Bloomberg
  • PDF
  • More Info (hover)
  • Preeminent Treatise
  • Study Aid

Introduction to Native American Law

Research in and the study of tribal law differs from typical legal research in that Federally recognized tribes are governed not only by Federal law, but also by their own sovereign governments. A "federally recognized tribe" is one recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (43 U.S.C. 1601).  Some tribes not recognized by the Federal government do have recognition by individual states.  These tribal governments are empowered by their own constitutions, statutes, and courts. There are non-Federally recognized tribes and tribes that are recognized by individual states, but not by the Federal government. These distinctions are important factors, both in practice and in research.

This guide is organized by three broad categories: Primary Law, Secondary Sources, and Organizations and Websites.  Primary law provides information on resources for laws and legislation, as well as regulations, cases, and treaties. This page includes pertinent Federal materials, as well as resources for individual tribal governments.  Secondary sources provide commentaries, explanations, overviews and information on additional research resources, including law reviews and other journals, databases, and research collections.  

A Note on Nomenclature

The Library of Congress Classification uses the term American Indian for its subject classification of materials on indigenous tribes of the United States. However, a more targeted search can be performed using the official or colloquial name of a specific tribe. 

Indigenous peoples of the United States generally prefer to be called by the name of their tribe or nation.  There are multiple terms that are commonly used to describe the indigenous peoples of the United States as a whole, including "native American," "American Indian," or "indigenous."  The question of "what to be called" is a choice made by each individual, but the terminology in written works can also be guided by that publication's style manual. 



Pre-Contact Map

Update History

07/2017 roj

05/2018 roj

Williams Library Reference

Photo of Williams Law Library

Reference Desk:
Atrium, 2nd (Main) Floor
(202) 662-9140

Request a Research Consultation


Update History

Updated 10/14 (CPW)