Native American Heritage Month: Law Library Resources for Indigenous Scholarship

Arizona, the home of twenty-two federally recognized tribes, is rich in the culture of indigenous peoples, and Arizona State University’s law school has built a strong record of promoting study of Indian law and policy since its inception.

The Ross Blakley Law Library joins the federal government in observing November as Native American Heritage Month, honoring the traditions of North American indigenous peoples. Federal institutions are joining to provide webinars and webcasts highlighting Native art and heritage, as well as contemporary issues, such as voting rights, facing indigenous communities.

The library provides abundant resources on tribal law as well as federal and Arizona law regarding indigenous people. The Indian Law section on the third floor near the reference desk includes rare materials such as full tribal codes, commentaries, and reference materials.

Online, the library provides an Indian Law Research Guide, which includes sections on tribal law, local and federal Indian law, as well as international indigenous law and cultural resources.

We have gathered materials providing news on Native American legal developments as well as background materials to help introduce new scholars and practitioners to the communities’ legal regimes and cultures. We have gathered resources to help interested parties without database subscriptions gain access to tribal legal materials for free.

We take a particularly comprehensive look at the twenty-two tribes with significant presence in Arizona. For example, we point researchers toward the website, codes, constitution, and judicial opinions of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, including online and print resources. Most of the resources are freely accessible to the general public. The guide provides particularly substantial information on legal issues of particular importance to indigenous communities, including water rights, economic development, and casino gaming.

Sections on federal Indian law, treaties, and international indigenous law include secondary sources to help get researchers up to speed on the complexities of their topic, as well as pointing to resources that provide the primary authority they will rely on for their legal citations. The library provides the most renowned treatises on the subject, including a print copy of and online links to Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law. Commentators such as ASU Law’s own Professor Robert J. Miller provide important perspective on contemporary issues facing tribes. Our Cultural Resources guide further fills in the details of the cultures and complex legal challenges in indigenous communities.

The law library’s comprehensive treatment of the subject reflects the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law’s longstanding dedication to indigenous law, which has grown dramatically since the inaugural class of 1967 welcome Native students, and the initial curriculum included a course titled Legal Problems of Indians. Since 1988, ASU Law has been home to the Indian Legal Program, a nationally recognized educational force that includes leading scholars, such as ABA Spirit of Excellence Award winner Patty Ferguson Bohnee. The ILP offers a certificate for students wishing to concentrate their studies on Indian law.

If you are considering a research project or need help navigating the vast array or resources on indigenous and tribal law, feel free to Meet with a Librarian. We hope you will take the time to explore the rich traditions and legal landscapes of Arizona’s diverse indigenous communities this Native American Heritage Month.

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian