Center for Indian Law & Policy

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Indian Law Classes

Federal Indian Law

Federal Indian Law is a survey course introducing students to the special federal statutes and court decisions governing the unique legal status of Indian tribes, Indian individuals, and Indian property. The course provides an overview of the history of federal Indian policy and legal development. It introduces the student to the interpretation of treaty rights; tribal sovereignty; federal, state, and tribal jurisdiction in Indian country; special rules regarding environmental protection of resources of importance to tribes; the disposition on Indian child custody matters; Indian gaming; and other matters of increasing importance to the practice of law in areas such as Washington State where a significant tribal presence exists.

American Indian Tribal Law

This course will examine the development of tribal justice systems from pre-contact through colonization, and into our modern era of tribal self-government. We will describe modern tribal government activities and explore how disputes are resolved within American Indian nations. We will study comparative tribal constitutional law, the tribal laws governing membership in Indian nations and tribal elections, the nature of legal practice in tribal court, and how one becomes a member of a tribal bar. We will also consider how traditional areas of law are handled by American Indian nations, such as civil rights law, criminal law and procedure, domestic relations, property, contracts, torts, civil procedure, and jurisdiction. Finally, we will look at tribal economies and the role played by tribal administrative law and regulation.

Indian Law and Natural Resources

Indian tribes have traditionally relied upon the natural resources for their personal, economic, cultural and religious well-being. Although ownership and access to those resources has been reduced over time, Indian tribes continue to own, and have rights to, a wide range of natural resources. Tribal management of natural resources have, in some instances, become models of wise use, protection and enhancement. This course will explore the basis for tribal ownership of, and rights to, natural resources; the nature and extent of those rights today; tribal managements of those resources; the interface and conflicts among tribal, state and federal agencies over the use and management of these resources; and the implication of selected federal statutes. Guest speakers will give presentations over the course of the semester.; A paper will be required in lieu of a final exam.

Contemporary Issues in Indian Law

This seminar will explore and analyze the changes that are occurring in Indian law as a result of decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and statutes enacted by the U.S. Congress. Indian law is among the oldest and most complex areas of federal law. Unlike many other areas of federal law, it undergoes periodic change that reflects shifting federal policies, the conflicts between tribal governments and other units of government and the ever changing economic and social environment both on and off of Indian lands. The course will offer a framework for understanding the changes in Indian law through an analysis of the foundational doctrines of Indian law and the way in which the courts and the Congress are applying those doctrines to shape contemporary Indian law and policy and resolve disputes involving Indian tribes. The content of the course will reflect current developments in areas such as the trust responsibility; protection of cultural resources; religious freedom; taxation; business activities; land status; regulation of the environment; tribal, state and federal civil and criminal.

Tribal Governmental Gaming

This seminar will review the legal, political and social forces that led to the enactment of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and examine the implementation of the Act. The course covers all of the major issues involved in IGRA, including: management contracts; the powers of the National Indian Gaming Commission; the classification of various gaming activities; tribal authority over gaming; the role of the states in the regulation of Indian gaming and the determination of where Indian gaming facilities may be located. Requirements for the course include informed class participation and the preparation of a research paper. The Federal Indian Law course is not a prerequisite, but it will be helpful in understanding the concepts involved in IGRA and the issues that have arisen in the implementation of the Act.

Indian Trusts and Estates Clinic

This three credit integrative clinic is open to students who have taken, or are currently enrolled in, the Trusts and Estates course. Students work in teams of two and will represent a low-income Native American person in an estate planning matter involving both their personal property and their interests in federal trust lands in the preparation of wills, powers of attorney and health care directives. Student instruction is held in conjunction with the Trust and Estates Clinic students, with breakout sessions covering the Federal Law and Tribal Probate Codes that govern the estate of the Native American client. In addition, student teams must maintain office hours in the Clinic offices for a total of four hours per week. Office hours must be scheduled on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday between 1 and 8 p.m. This clinic is available as an evening clinic. Prerequisite or co-requisite: Trusts and Estates. Federal Indian Law is recommended, but not required. Students must meet the Law Clinic's conflict of interest rules.

Indian Wills Clinic

The Indian Wills Clinic began in 2006 in an effort to determine if it would be a viable model for providing estate planning services to individuals and to determine if there was interest on the part of law students in this kind of clinical work. Four student positions were allocated to the Indian Wills Clinic from the positions available under the general wills clinic. In the initial year, four students applied for those positions. Thereafter, there has been a waiting list of students for these positions, clearly establishing that there is a significant student interest in the Indian Wills Clinic. At the same time, two Indian clients have been served each semester with the students working in teams of two.

The Indian Wills Clinic provides a viable means of delivering estate planning services to Indian people. It is hoped that it will be expanded and established as a full clinical program and that this model can be carried to other law schools with active clinical programs to provide estate planning services to Indian people at no cost.

Tribal Administration Law

This course will provide an overview of the integration and application of strategic and operational management principles in tribal governments. Topics will include the development of goals, strategies, and approaches to implementation. The course will focus on tribal strategic plans and issues specific to tribes, such as the federal-tribal relationship, tribal constitutions, and tribal ordinances and regulations. This course will provide an overview of organizational management theories with an emphasis on tribal governments. It will focus on the various types of tribal governments, the role of tribal managers, tribal management functions, communications processes, and management information systems design and development. It will also explore different models of delivering services on reservations.

Tribal Transactions and Taxation

This course will examine the leading Native American tax cases. The class will address the policy, legal, and regulatory framework surrounding Tribal taxation, federal taxation of members and tribes, special federal rules, fishing rights, Indian Tax Status Act, tribal bonds, rapid depreciation rules, Indian jobs credit, and special rules for gaming; state taxation of tribes, members, and non-members and tribal taxation. Topics include the problem of multiple taxation, federal Indian liquor laws, and fuel and tobacco taxes.

Tribal Law and Governance

Seattle University School of Law offers the largest Indian and tribal law program in the Pacific Northwest. The LLM in Tribal Law & Governance is designed to provide attorneys, judges, and law professors with both academic and practical training in the areas of tribal law, federal Indian law, traditional forms of governance, and policy within the federal, state, and tribal structures through a flexible program of study.

The LLM will benefit the student interested in acquiring the knowledge, skills, and cultural understanding needed to work as an attorney in a law firm practicing federal Indian law or representing tribes; or working in a tribal legal office, tribal government, federal government, or a tribally-chartered corporation; or in representing non-Indian individuals and corporations doing business in Indian Country.