Indian Law

Indian Law

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The Indian Legal Program was established in 1988 and has grown into one of the most respected Indian law programs in the country. Situated in the heart of the Southwest, with connections to Arizona’s 22 tribes, it is the perfect location to study the developing field of Indian law. The nationally recognized faculty members are leading scholars in their fields and produce scholarly research and publications, as well as provide outreach and public service.

The Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University is home to one of the highest concentrations of Native American students and Indian law students in the nation. ASU Law has an active Native American Law Students Association that hosts events, participates in pro bono activities, and mentors incoming students. Students have an instant network to support them academically, professionally, and socially. The Indian Legal Program alumni are making a difference in Indian country. Graduates are working for tribes, in public service, private practice, and nonprofit organizations. The center's positive reputation is in large part due to the success and support of its graduates.

Benefits

ASU Law students can participate in many programs and projects.

  • Indian Law Certificate for students who finish 21 hours of relevant curriculum, write a substantial paper, and complete practical work in the Indian Legal Clinic.
  • Rosette LLP, American Indian Economic Development Program provides an innovative and challenging curriculum for students; hosts annual conferences that focus on tribal economic development for students, attorneys, tribal leaders, tribal citizens, policymakers, entrepreneurs, developers, and financial advisers; and is creating a community outreach component.
  • National conferences and lectures that invite top scholars and attorneys to present contemporary legal issues in Indian country.
  • Native Vote Election Protection Project allows students to assist voters and tribal communities to prevent voter disenfranchisement.
  • Tribal Court Trial Skills College provides three days of training for tribal court advocates.
  • Native American Pipeline to Law Initiative invites students and attorneys to assist in community outreach, mentorship, and pre-law advising to help improve access to justice in tribal communities.

The Indian Legal Clinic provides students with an opportunity to participate in real cases dealing with Native peoples and Indian issues. The clinic serves both Indian country and the nation’s urban Indian populations by providing high-quality legal services, with attention to the special legal and cultural needs of Native people. The clinic works with tribal courts handling criminal prosecutions and defense actions, undertakes tribal legal development projects, such as drafting tribal code provisions and court rules for Indian tribes, represents individuals in civil actions, and works on federal policy issues affecting Native people, such as federal recognition.

Highlights include:

  • Amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Court of Appeals
  • 2008 ASU President’s Medal for Social Embeddedness Award for the Native Vote – Election Protection Project
  • Testimony on the federal acknowledgement process for the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearings and traveling to Washington, DC, to observe the hearings
  • Comments on proposed federal acknowledgment regulations and the proposed process rule
  • Indian Child Welfare Act proceedings for Indian children, parents, and tribes

Degrees

Juris Doctor, JD can be focused in Indian Law, and students can earn an Indian Law Certificate.

The Indian Law Certificate Program is designed for JD students with an interest in Indian law. Students are required to take at least 21 hours of classes that are relevant to the practice of Indian law, write a substantial paper on an Indian law topic, and complete practical work experience in the award-winning Indian Legal Clinic. The Indian Law Certificate shows a higher level of understanding in the subject matter. Graduates stand out to employers, especially if seeking a job in representing state, federal or tribal governments, or represent companies that do business with tribes.


Master of Laws, LLM in Tribal Policy Law and Government - Do you have your law degree and work (or aspire to work) with Native American tribes and businesses? Are you interested in government, economic development, or health care positions that impact native populations? If so, consider a Master of Laws with an emphasis in Tribal Policy, Law and Government.

Today, native tribes face growing issues concerning health, economic development, gaming, and many other areas associated with being sovereign nations within the United States’ legal framework. Students will gain a detailed understanding of the nature of tribal government, and of law and policy development within the domestic federal structure.

The core curricular offerings focus on domestic tribal law, federal Indian law and American institutions of law and government.


Master of Legal Studies, MLS is for those who do not wish to practice law, but have a need or interest in tribal law, the MLS in Indian Law provides students with the basics of law, but also allows them to choose some of their classes in order to gain the tribal law knowledge they desire.

Student opportunities and experiences

The Indian Legal Program provides students the opportunity to see the law in action with two traveling classes. Students have the opportunity to leave Arizona and learn from experts in the field. In Federal Advocacy for the Tribal Client, students attend class during fall break at the ASU Washington Center in DC with former Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Carl Artman and visiting lecturers from the DC area providing instruction.

This class introduces students to the practical application of the relationship between tribes and the federal government, including the development of federal Indian policy. While in DC, students visit different offices and network with professionals working in the field. In Contemporary Issues in Tribal Economic Development, students attend class in Winnebago, Nebraska, during spring break at the corporate headquarters of Ho- Chunk Inc. with Lance Morgan, CEO of Ho-Chunk Inc., instructing the class. Ho-Chunk Inc. is an award-winning economic development corporation owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. Established in 1994 with one employee, Ho-Chunk Inc. has grown to over 1,000 employees with operations in 10 states and four foreign countries. Topics covered include tobacco and gas operations and tax compacts, tribal corporate structures, government contracting, a new tribal farming initiative, as well as numerous other subjects.

Native American Law Students Association at ASU Law is a large and active group of Native and non-Native law students. It is committed to promoting the understanding of Native American cultures and legal issues affecting indigenous people. It organizes community service activities, social activities, and mentorships. The student mentorships provide incoming students with academic support, advice, and friendship. The ASU Chapter is an active member of the National Native American Law Students Association organization, competes in the annual national moot court competition, and co-sponsors the Indian Legal Program /Native American Law Students Association graduation celebration.

Sample of coursework

  • Cultural Resources
  • Indian Gaming
  • Tribal Law and Government
  • Economic Development in Indian Country
  • Contemporary Issues in Tribal Economic Development
  • Indian Law and Taxation
  • Federal Advocacy for the Tribal Client
  • International Indigenous Rights
  • Critical Race Theory
  • Civil Rights Legislation
  • Environmental Law
  • Natural Resources Law
  • Water Law
  • Tribal Energy

Student Testimonials

Candace Begody

Candace Begody (Navajo)

3L - Class of 2020


"I am excited to continue to learn from and be mentored by ASU’s ILP professors, some of the most respected legal minds of Indian Country. I also have wonderful professors in all of my classes; not only have they distinguished themselves in their respective areas of expertise, but they are also passionate about teaching the students and ensuring that we succeed in law school, all of which has made classes enjoyable and meaningful."

Dylan West

Dylan West (Choctaw)

2L - Class of 2021


"Meeting and interacting with classmates who think and interpret the world in a similar way to me has been a great experience. The facilities, class discussions, and learning materials have all been incredibly engaging and I can’t think of a better place to be for my legal education."

Aspen Miller

Aspen Miller (Navajo)

2L - Class of 2021


"I always thought of law school as a far-off ambition or end goal. Now that I’m here, I can see that this is just the beginning, and much will be demanded of me, but I hope to do well. There is a great feeling of unification from being a part of Indian Law program and it reminds that there is so much to celebrate."

Expertise

Patty Ferguson-Bohnee
Patty Ferguson-Bohnee

Clinical Professor of Law

 Trevor Reed
Trevor Reed

Associate Professor

 Ann Marie Bledsoe-Downes
Ann Marie Bledsoe Downes

Professor of Practice and Director
Indian Gaming & Tribal Self-Governance Programs

Robert J. Miller
Robert J. Miller

Professor of Law

 Helen Burtis
Helen Burtis

Faculty Associate

Lawrence S. Roberts
Lawrence S. Roberts

Professor of Practice and Executive Director
Indian Gaming & Tribal Self-Governance Programs

Connect and support

Contact:
Kate Rosier, Executive Director - Kathlene.Rosier@asu.edu | (480)965-6204

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