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Native Land Law


Native Land Law: Publication

ILTF worked in partnership with Indian Law Resource Center to develop a set of 17 General Principles of law that create a legal framework to guide the future development of federal law relating to Indian land and resources.

The resulting publication, Native Land Law: General Principles of Law Relating to Native Lands and Natural Resources, provides a comprehensive overview of the General Principles and an extensive legal analysis of relevant federal law.

Here's what one leading legal scholar had to say about Native Land Law:

Native Land Law provides a penetrating and useful understanding of the underlying principles of native land law in the United States through a proper reading of Justice Marshall’s opinions against a backdrop of then-prevailing international law and the reinforcement of those foundational principles in modern instruments such as the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is against these basic principles that we are able to identify and address the present errors, anomalies and misunderstandings in native land law today."

—John EchoHawk, Executive Director, Native American Rights Fund

How to Order

Native Land Law's first edition was published by Thomson Reuters in 2012 and has been updated each year thereafter. The latest edition is available for purchase on the Thomson Reuters WestLaw website. Order Native Land Law now.

Native Land Law —Abridged Version

We have also developed an abridged version of Native Land Law which provides an overview of each of the General Principles and includes a timeline of major events in U.S. history related to Indian law. It is available as a PDF or you can contact us to request a hard copy. View abridged version.

CLE Programs

Participants will gain a deeper understanding of current law, the historical and legal contexts that shape Native land law, and will be challenged to consider alternative approaches that are workable within a U.S. constitutional framework.

Trainings are fully accredited and provided online through Thomson Reuters West LegalEdcenter. To register for an upcoming training, or to view previously aired programs On Demand, click on the active link for each CLE below.

Cobell CLE Program 

Cobell v. Jewell resulted in the largest class-action settlement against the federal government in U.S. history. Cobell stemmed from more than a century of management of American Indian trust assets. Originally filed in 1996, Cobell was settled for $3.4 billion in 2010. This half-day CLE event will be held live in Washington, D.C.

Originally Aired on July 16, 2014 12:00–3:00 p.m. (ET)  |   2.25 credits

Part One—Restoring the Public Trust: Cobell v. Jewell and Beyond

Luncheon Presentation – Freeman, Stainbrook
David Freeman and Cris Stainbrook will provide introductory remarks, including an overview of the Cobell v. Jewell (ultimately, Cobell v. Salazar) class action lawsuit, as well as an overview of the legal framework, administrative structure and regulatory instruments for effective land stewardship in Indian Country.

Litigation and Legislative Strategic Considerations in the Cobell v. Jewell – Gingold and Pearl
Plaintiffs' attorneys Dennis Gingold and Alexander Pearl will provide their perspectives on litigating the class action suit, from cause of action to strategic considerations throughout the more than decade-long case. Pearl will discuss the strategy for guiding the settlement through Congress for approval.

A Ringside Seat to the Cobell Litigation – Pursley
Former clerk to Chief Judge Royce Lamberth, who presided over the Cobell v. Jewell lawsuit for several years, will provide his perspective on the class action lawsuit, including an overview of the several rulings that came down under Judge Lamberth and the tactics employed by attorneys on both sides over the course of the case. Pursley will discuss the implications of Cobell on the public trust in the federal government and ways in which the judiciary can be a vehicle for restoring public trust.

Originally Aired on July 16, 2014 3:15–5:45 p.m. (ET)  |   1.75 on credits

Part Two—Restoring the Public Trust: Cobell v. Jewell and Beyond

Trust Reform in the wake of Cobell – Leeds, Gehres
Stacy Leeds and Ed Gehres will provide an overview of federal trust responsibilities to Indian tribes and individual Indian people as well as the impacts to the trust relationship resulting from the settlement of the Cobell lawsuit.

The View from the DOI - Washburn
Kevin Washburn will provide insight into the impacts of Cobell within the Department of the Interior, which oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs and is charged with implementing the Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations, a major component of the settlement of the case.

Restoring the Public Trust 
Gain a better understanding of the impacts of the Cobell case and settlement for federal agencies. Listen as our speakers explore nature of the erosion of public trust in the government and the implications that this erosion of trust has on the ability of the government to carry out its responsibilities.  

Tribal Land Staff CLEs

The following series offers continuing legal education (CLE) credits from the perspective of tribal land staff. These sessions were offered live at the 4th Tribal Land Staff National Conference in April, 2014.

Originally Aired on April 9, 2014 9:00-10:00 a.m. (CST)

Rights of Way and Easements

Covers how tribal land staff process easements and rights of ways internally for the purpose of tribally-owned roads, pipelines, utilities and ingress/egress that benefit the tribe and tribal members. 

Originally Aired on April 9, 2014 1:30-2:30 p.m. (CST)

Introduction to NEPA

Explores the basics of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and how it will affect a tribe’s environmentally-sensitive projects. Discussion will include reviewing actual examples of an Environmental Assessment, Biological Assessment, Environmental Impact Statement and a Findings of No Significant Impact (FONSI). 

Originally Aired on April 9, 2014 4:00-5:00 p.m. (CST)

Surveys & Legal Descriptions

Provides a basic understanding of the different types of surveys and how to read a survey plat, legal descriptions and more.

Originally Aired on April 10, 2014 9:00-10:00 a.m. (CST)

Water Rights on Tribal Lands

Gives an overview of tribal water rights and their importance to tribal sovereignty.

Originally Aired on April 10, 2014 10:30-12:00 p.m. (CST)

Legislative Updates

Provides an up-to-date legislation, policies, regulations and court cases to stay current with issues affecting tribes and tribal members.

Native Land Law CLEs

Native Land Law is a continuing legal education (CLE) series for legal professionals, tribal leaders and others interested in Indian law. The series offers continuing legal education (CLE) credits and training for legal professionals, tribal leaders and others interested in federal Indian law. It provides an overview of the 17 legal principles in Native Land Law: General Principles of Law Relating to Native Lands and Natural Resources and offers analysis of federal laws and policies that impact the field of Indian law today.

Originally Aired on April 9, 2013 1:00-3:00 p.m. (CST)

Native Land Law 101: Fundamentals of Policy & History

Provides an overview of the fundamental principles of U.S. federal Indian law and examines the policies underlying Indian land law. Also provides an overview of Native Land Law’s 17 General Principles, including the historical context in which the Principles were developed and how they are applied today. 

Originally Aired on May 14, 2013 1:00-3:00 p.m. (CST)

Principles 2, 10 & 13: Discovery Doctrine, Plenary Power & Termination

Explores the legal underpinnings of the Discovery Doctrine and plenary power and provides a review of analysis under current majority opinions and alternative analyses offered in Native Land Law

Originally Aired on June 11, 2013 1:00-3:00 p.m. (CST)

Principles 9 & 17: Treaties

Explores the history of treaty-making and the legal status of Indian treaties with the US as defined in the Constitution, in US case law and as referenced in international law.  

Originally Aired on July 9, 2013 1:00-3:00 p.m. (CST)

Principles 1, 3 & 5: Land Ownership & Tenure

Explores the legal rights of Native nations regarding ownership and control of their lands and the constitutional underpinnings of aboriginal title.

Originally Aired on August 20, 2013 1:00-3:00 p.m. (CST)

Principles 6, 7 & 8: Trusteeship & Trust Title

Reviews treaties and statutes that recognize and guarantee Indian and Alaska Native self-government and self-determination and explores whether or not it is legally necessary for land to be held in trust in order for it to be held under the jurisdiction of a Native nation, remain non-taxable by state and local governments, and continue to be protected against alienation.

Originally Aired on September 10, 2013 1:00-3:00 p.m. (CST)

Principles 11 & 12: Self-Determination

Details constitutional limits of federal government to interfere with Native governments’ ownership of their lands and compares and contrasts these constitutional limits with the policy of self-determination held by the US government for the last 50 years.

Originally Aired on October 15, 2013 1:00-3:00 p.m. (CST)

Principles 4 & 14: Taxation by Tribal/Federal/State Government

Reviews current tax law as it relates to Indian lands and the activities on Indian lands and considers constructive reforms.