About the certificate
The Native American Law and Sovereignty Institute offers the Native American Law and Sovereignty Certificate to allow students to explore the cross-cultural fields of Native American Law to include: Indigenous legal principles, Tribal law, federal Indian law, and the relationships between Tribal Nations and other governmental entities and systems. Through this certificate, students will gain foundational skills to practice in legal settings and fora involving Native American Law.
The Native American Law and Sovereignty Certificate is comprised of 18 credits as detailed below. All J.D. students may pursue this certificate. Students interested in this certificate should contact Professor EagleWoman to get started.
Native American law courses
Foundational required courses (9 credits)
The prerequisite course, 4313 Native American Law, is offered synchronously each fall semester and is offered online, asynchronously each spring semester. The required courses below are offered asynchronously online.
4313 Native American Law (3 credits, Fall – synchronous, Spring – asynchronous)
This course is a prerequisite for all other Native American law courses.
Foundational course examining the historical basis for the relationship between Tribal governments and the federal and state governments. The course will allow students to explore the cross-cultural fields of Native American Law to include: Indigenous legal principles, Tribal law, federal Indian law, and the relationships between Tribal Nations and other governmental entities and systems. Subjects emphasized include: civil and criminal jurisdiction, protection of natural resources, Tribal gaming, taxation, regulation as applied to American Indians and non-Indians, and the overarching theme of Tribal sovereignty.
3010 Introduction to Tribal Law (3 credits, Spring 2025 asynchronous regularly offered as a spring course)
This course provides a broad overview of the most important issues involved in Tribal legal studies, including an overview of Tribal governments, the history of Tribal court systems, the modern-day structure and operations of Tribal courts, and Tribal criminal and civil jurisdiction. The course addresses the development of Tribal common law, the incorporation of Tribal custom and tradition into Tribal laws and institutions, separation of powers within Tribal governments, inter-tribal appellate courts, and implementation of traditional dispute resolution mechanisms such as peacemaking courts.
Grades are based on a paper and class assignments. This course may be taken to satisfy the Long Paper or Advanced Research and Writing (ARW) graduation requirement. The final product to satisfy the requirement will be a research paper of 8,500 words, not to exceed 9,500 words. If the course is taken without seeking to satisfy that requirement, the final product will be a research paper of 5,000 words, not to exceed 6,000 words.
4314 Advanced Topics in Native American Law (3 credits, Fall 2024 asynchronous regularly offered as a fall course)
This course addresses several advanced topics in Federal Indian Law that cannot be covered in the basic survey course, including the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the Indian Child Welfare Act, and the scope and limits of state criminal jurisdiction over Native Americans in Minnesota (a mostly Public Law 280 state).
Native American law experiential requirement (3 credits)
This requirement may be fulfilled by taking the 8011 Native Law Clinic: Tribal Code Drafting or through an approved externship.
8011 Native Law Clinic: Tribal Code Drafting (4 credits, Spring synchronous)
This course may be taken for a minimum of 4 credits with any additional credits subject to the instructor’s approval. Tribal Code Drafting is available for upper-level students who have taken the pre-requisite 4313 Native American Law course and are interested in Tribal law. Students in the clinic will work on various approved legal development projects at the request of Tribal governments and organizations. Typical projects include legislative drafting and reform, drafting and amendment of statutes, creation of western-style, traditional, and hybrid dispute resolution processes, and policy document development under the supervision of the instructor. This course is limited to 14 students per semester and is offered as part of the blended-learning enrollment option.
Note: This course is unavailable through online registration. To register, please contact Professor EagleWoman for the application form prior to the registration deadline.
Independent Externships (2–4 credits)Students work one-on-one with a faculty member to create a specific externship opportunity that fits students’ interests and needs. Examples include serving as law clerks to tribal judges, working in tribal legal departments and assisting nonprofit organizations dedicated to serving Indian people. Independent externship opportunities are offered during the fall, spring, and summer semesters.
Long Paper Requirement
As a requirement for graduation all students must complete a comprehensive research paper after their first year of law school. The paper is generally required to be written under the supervision of a full-time faculty member, and up to four independent study credits can be applied for.
This legal research paper must be approved by a faculty advisor on a Native American law topic and meet the Advanced Research and Writing (ARW) standards. This requirement may be satisfied in the 3010 Introduction to Tribal Law course, other Native American law electives, a directed study under faculty supervision, or a law/journal paper under faculty supervision.
Native American law concentration and elective courses (6 credits)
Through faculty advising, students select an area of concentration to receive the certificate. The areas of concentration are: criminal law, economic development and transactional law, family law, governance law, litigation, and natural resources management law. Native American law electives and courses in the general law school curriculum may satisfy this requirement.
3093 Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (3 credits, offered irregularly Fall – asynchronous)
This course analyzes the intellectual property and cultural property rights of Tribal Nations in the United States. The course discusses how Tribal Nations may use federal statutes of general applicability to protect their property interests, and how these federal statutes may fail to protect traditional indigenous knowledge. This course also discusses the federal statutes that have been enacted by Congress to specifically safeguard indigenous cultural and intellectual property, and how Tribal Nations have begun enacting tribal laws governing their own cultural property and traditional knowledge.
4316 International Indigenous Law (2–3 credits, J-Term – synchronous)
This course will examine the major international organizations and instruments setting forth guidance on Indigenous rights. The course addresses international Indigenous legal principles and the significant conventions, declarations, and conferences that have led to the development of these principles. International Indigenous legal principles will be discussed in the context of U.S. Indian law, Canadian Aboriginal law, Australian Aborigine law and New Zealand Maori law. This course is for students interested in international Indigenous issues, rights frameworks, and law. The final grade will be based on class participation, a presentation and preparation of a paper on a topic selected by the student and approved by the professor. With the professor’s prior approval, students may prepare a “long paper” to satisfy the Advanced Research and Writing requirement.
6048 Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), Child Protection, and Adoption Proceedings (2 credits, Summer – synchronous)
Taught by Justice Anne McKeig.
This course provides students with an introduction to the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, including its historical context, present day application, and future implications. This important federal statute is applicable to child protection cases (e.g., foster care placement, termination of parental rights) and adoption proceedings involving Indian children.
7600 National Native American Law Student Association (NNALSA) Moot Court Competition (2 credits, Spring)
Competition takes place in the Spring Semester, but students may earn a credit in J-Term and Spring with prior approval from their Native American law faculty advisor.
This is the only national law school competition that focuses on issues relating to Federal Indian Law and Tribal Nations. The competition simulates an appellate argument, typically one that would take place before the U.S. Supreme Court. Participants work in teams of two students and collaborate on a written appellate brief and the subsequent oral argument. The competition usually includes between 60 and 70 teams from around the country.
All student members of our NALSA Chapter are welcome to participate. In addition, students must have taken 4313 Native American Law (offered every fall & spring semester). Students cannot take any J-Term courses during the year they participate in the competition, because in our experience, competitors need to spend this time working on their briefs. The coaches determine which students will compete on behalf of the MH NALSA chapter and may schedule try outs depending on the number of interested students. Selected students must satisfy these prerequisites and express interest in the competition. In recent years we have sent between two and four teams to the competition.
Students must meet with Professor EagleWoman to develop a plan of study for obtaining the certificate. Regular meetings with the advisor on the progress towards the Native American Law and Sovereignty Certificate are expected of the student.
Students pursuing the Native American Law and Sovereignty Certificate are encouraged to be actively engaged in extracurricular activities related to Native American law and sovereignty over the course of their law school career, through any of the following: