Tribal Law

KU Law’s program in tribal law prepares students to be strong advocates for Indian nations and tribes.

Overview

KU Law offers a core curriculum in tribal law courses, as well as a certificate program, clinical opportunities, an annual conference and a joint degree program. 

Effectively representing Indian nations and tribes requires an understanding of the laws, history and policies that affect them. Since 1995, the Tribal Law & Government Center at KU Law has equipped students and legal professionals who will represent Indian nations with the skills necessary to appreciate and strengthen the unique nature of indigenous tribal legal systems.

Students interested in pursuing tribal law can complete the Tribal Lawyer Certificate. The Tribal Judicial Support Clinic gives second- and third-year students the opportunity to assist tribal court systems through a variety of projects. Students enrolled in the clinic may have the opportunity to train diplomats on indigenous issues and conflict resolution as part of a partnership between KU Law and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research.

KU Law's joint degree program in law and indigenous studies allows students to graduate with both the J.D. and an M.A. in Indigenous Studies in seven semesters, including summer school.

Each year, KU hosts the Tribal Law & Government Conference, which devotes significant scholarly attention to the study of organic tribal law, modern tribal governments and the evolution of tribal common law. The conference highlights how works of scholars and tribal jurists addressing the emerging and historical problems of indigenous law and governance are critical to strengthening tribal sovereignty.

Clinics & Field Placements

Certificate

Centers & Related Programs

Tribal Law Curriculum Guide

Recommended Upper-Level Courses:

  • Comparative Law
  • Federal Indian Law
  • Native American Natural Resources
  • Sovereignty, Self-Determination and the Indigenous Nations
  • Special Topics in American Indian Law (recent offerings include Indian Gaming and Economic Development in Indian Country)

Related Courses:

  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Business Organizations
  • Federal Courts and the Federal System
  • Legislative Process
  • Local Government Law
  • Oil and Gas
  • Public International Law
  • Public Lands and Natural Resources
  • Water Law

Course descriptions

The Tribal Lawyer Certificate program is designed to ensure that law students aspiring to a career representing Indian nations have the skills necessary to appreciate and strengthen the unique nature of indigenous tribal legal systems.

Joint Degree: JD/MA in Indigenous Studies

KU Law offers a JD/MA in Indigenous Studies joint degree program, which allows students to obtain both degrees in four years. The program is of special interest to students who intend to become leaders and policymakers in indigenous communities worldwide.

Student Organizations

KU's Native American Law Students Association is an organization of dynamic students, both Indian and non-Indian, who organize annual service projects and social events. NALSA members attend National NALSA conferences and participate in the National NALSA Moot Court Competition. The NNALSA competition tests students’ knowledge of Indian law by evaluating their legal writing and oral advocacy skills. Students submit written briefs and participate in a simulated courtroom experience. KU Law teams regularly advance to the final round of the competition. 

NALSA members also routinely attend the annual Federal Bar Association's Indian Law Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Group members also provide mentoring and study materials.

KU Law Partnership with United Nations Institute for Training and Research

Students enrolled in the Mediation Clinic and Tribal Judicial Support Clinic may have the opportunity to train diplomats on indigenous issues and conflict resolution as part of a partnership between KU Law and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research. Read more about the partnership with UNITAR.

In addition to full-time faculty, several adjunct faculty teach courses in this area.

Full faculty list

Tribal Law & Government Center News

Read about the latest news from the Tribal Law & Government Center at KU Law in the center’s annual newsletter. Find program updates, alumni notes, upcoming events and student accomplishments.

Tribal Law and Government Center - News and Notes

Questions?

Shawn Watts
Director, Tribal Law & Government Center
Clinical Associate Professor
shawn.watts@ku.edu
785-864-4513