“Native American Law” refers primarily to the body of law dealing with the status of United States Indian tribes and their relationship to other tribes, the states, and the federal government. These complex relationships are defined by treaties, statutes, executive orders, court decisions, and administrative actions.
This guide is intended as an introduction to legal materials available at the University of Wisconsin Law Library on Native Americans and other native peoples of the United States, such as Native Alaskans and Hawaiians. Because there are many shared concerns of Native Americans in the United States and Canada, references to some Canadian books and serials are included.
The terms “Native American” and “American Indian” or “Indian” are often used interchangeably. In recent years, "Native American” is more commonly used, and is considered a more culturally sensitive and politically accurate term. Regardless, “Native Americans” and “American Indians” are not exact equivalents, with Native Americans being a broader term also encompassing the indigenous peoples of Canada and Alaska.
When selecting search terms for legal resources, especially those resources published prior to the 1990s, or published by the U.S. government, the terms “American Indian” and “Indian Law” are more commonly used, and should be included as search terms. When searching Canadian sources, “Canadian Natives” or “First Nations” are two recommended search phrases. Searching by specific tribal names is also recommended.
Unless otherwise noted, all call numbers refer to locations at the UW Law Library.
For more on tribal law sources, see 'Whatever Tribal Precedent There May Be': The (Un)Availability of Tribal Law, 106 Law Library Journal 199 (2014).
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