Every year, YLS endeavors to offer least one of the following Indian law courses.

Native Peacemaking

This seminar in Native Peacemaking will give students a unique opportunity to study and practice this indigenous form of conflict resolution, as well as to engage in meaningful Peacemaking-related project work for Native American tribes. Students will be introduced to Federal Indian Law with special emphasis on how federal laws impact tribal sovereignty, self-determination, and tribal dispute resolution. Students will also receive significant mediation skills training to introduce them to party driven dispute resolution, and they will practice those skills in a series of exercises and role plays. After mediation skills training is complete, students will receive formal Peacemaking training and participate in Peacemaking Circles.  

Federal Indian Law

This course will examine the trajectory of legal relations between Native American tribes and the federal and state governments. Particular attention will be given to shifting federal policies, tribal sovereignty and legislative competence, constitutional rights, tribal membership, criminal law (including the evolving jurisdiction of tribal courts following enactment of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013), family law, taxation, gaming, and the control of natural and cultural resources. The American experience will be evaluated in light of the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the case law of other countries with indigenous populations, and decisions of international human rights bodies. There will be a field trip to one of the Connecticut reservations.

American Indian Tribal Law

The course will study the internal law and legal institutions of American Indian tribes, including tribal constitutions, statutes and ordinances, customary law, and tribal common law. Among the issues to be examined are intertribal common law, the interaction between tribal and non-tribal sources of law, judicial independence, political questions, citizenship, civil rights and liberties, and family law. The course will consider whether there should be an American Indian Supreme Court, and if so, how it should be designed and what legal, political and other obstacles it might face.



While YLS does not have a clinic devoted exclusively to Indian law issues, some clinics provide an opportunity to represent tribal clients, including the Environmental Protection Clinic. In 2011-2013, the Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic represented the natural father in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, a case about the Indian Child Welfare Act.


Native Amicus Briefing Project

Yale NALSA has recently partnered with our friends at Stanford, Harvard, and UC Irvine law schools to participate in the Native Amicus Briefing Project. The Native Amicus Briefing Project seeks to assist Native peoples and Indian tribes in federal and state appellate cases. It works as a complement to the Native American Rights Fund's Tribal Supreme Court Project and other similar projects.

National NALSA

Yale NALSA students are actively involved in the National NALSA, including participating in the annual Moot Court competition and attending the annual meeting at the Federal Indian Bar Association Conference.

Visit the National NALSA site


Native American Programs at Yale

Yale Native American Cultural Center
Established in 1993, the Native American Cultural Center (NACC) promotes American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian culture and explores the issues that Native Americans face in today’s world. The Center works to expose the Native community, as well as the greater Yale community, to Native American issues and culture by bringing programming to campus that includes events such as speakers, artist talks and installations, and conversations with leading Native intellectuals.

Visit the Yale Native American Cultural Center

Yale Group for the Study of Native America

The Yale Group for the Study of Native America (YGSNA) began in 2003 as an interdisciplinary working group interested in topics relating to Native America. It has become Yale’s overarching graduate student as well as scholarly working group dedicated to study of Native American and Indigenous peoples. Generally meeting twice a month during the academic year and usually on Tuesdays, YGSNA showcases works in progress and is composed of graduate students, faculty, and staff from across Yale. National speakers in the humanities, the fields of law and journalism, and other scholarly disciplines have also presented at YGSNA.

Visit the Yale Group for the Study of Native America