November is Native American Heritage Month. November was designated as Native American Heritage month in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush. In honor of this heritage month, we’ll be featuring the National Indian Law Library (NILL).
NILL is located in Boulder, Colorado and is currently offering remote services. It is the only law library that is devoted exclusively to American Indian law and is the only collection of past and present Tribal government documents, which began in 1988 and numbers more than 700 documents. It serves the public through providing research assistance and information for Indian law questions, provides updates via email bulletins, and provides access to Tribal Law through its online Tribal Law Gateway. Tribal materials are categorized alphabetically by tribe. Its mission for the public “is to develop and make accessible unique and valuable Indian law information and to offer Indian law research support.”
Tribal Law Gateway and catalog- start your research
Using the Tribal Law Gateway, you can find the local tribe Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. Each page features tribal codes, the tribal constitution, any court opinions and other legal materials. The Agua Caliente page has tribal codes and links to constitutions, but no court opinions or other legal materials. The tribe’s website is can be accessed here . The Morongo Band of Indians did not have much information on its page and their website is here. The Pechanga page also did not have much info, but did link to their main website. Within the Tribal Gateway, you can use the custom Google search bar to directly search tribal codes and constitutions available in the NILL collection.
You can also search NILL’s catalog. Their online catalog contains all their titles from their collection. Documents and information can often be sent free of charge. The main page features books new to NILL, such as Serving their country : American Indian politics and patriotism in the twentieth century. (2012) by Paul C. Rosier.
Research Guides- a starting point
Their online research guides cover topics like tribal recognition, Indian Child Welfare Act, Water Rights and Indian Land, and others. The research guides contain a variety of links on the topic. For example, for Water Rights and Indian Land, links are provided for water rights, land rights and additional resources. Under land rights, two of the resources link to tribal maps with printable PDFs, like Tribal Nations maps.
Bulletins- Keeping up-to-date
The email bulletins that are sent out cover updates for state courts, US legislation, law reviews and bar journals and a general news bulletin. Under the Indian Law Bulletins tab on the website you can follow key cases in the Supreme Court, federal courts, tribal courts and state courts. In state courts, California cases featured are Rincon Band of Luiseno Mission Indians of Rincon Rsrv. California v. Flynt, No. D077571, 2021 WL 5002604 (Cal. Ct. App. Oct. 28, 2021) and In re Benjamin M., 70 Cal. App. 5th 735 (2021). These cases can be accessed remotely via Westlaw, which you can sign up for access on our website.
You can submit questions to NILL staff through the website and receive a response within 3 business days or place a phone call at 1-303-447-8760. Staff can provide research assistance and documentation. Staff does not provide research for family history or assistance with finding a lawyer.
Looking to the future
NILL has ambitious plans for the next few years. On the agenda is: to develop and update the Tribal Law collection to make it more accessible, use the Internet to assist researchers, improve access to information and improve services. NILL acknowledges that change is inevitable but is ready to meet the challenge through action and responsibility.