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Native American Legal Research Guide: Primary Sources

This guide is intended to help you get started on your Native legal research in the Mabee Legal Information Center.

Primary Sources

For a more extensive list of Tribal Codes, see LibGuide "Tribal Courts, Codes, and Constitutions."

Government Web Sites

Government Resources

United States Constitution
See Chapter 3 in Felix S. Cohen's Handbook of Federal Indian Law for a thorough discussion of the Constitution as a source of federal power over Indian affairs. "Commerce with Indian Tribes" is annotated in a separate section of commerce clause coverage in USCA and USCS. Annotations on "Indian Treaties" appear under the Constitutional clause granting power to enter treaties to the President.

United States Statutes at Large v.7 (1789 - 1845)
Location: MLIC, Second Floor, FEDERAL
Statutes at Large Volume 7 is a compilation of Indian treaties entered into from 1778 through 1845. The treaties are in chronological order, and are indexed by tribal name. After Volumes 7 and 8 (the first compilations of Indian and non-Indian treatises), texts of treaties were regularly published in a separate section at the end of each Statutes at Large volume. Indian treaties are intermingled with all others. They are indexed within each volume by tribal name and are also listed under the index headings INDIAN AFFAIRS, INDIAN TREATIES or INDIAN DEPARTMENT. Volume 16 of Statutes at Large carries the last substantial number of treaties, although stray treaty texts appear in later volumes, as they were found and published. Statutes at Large can also be used to trace subsequent congressional action in furtherance of treaty obligations. For example, appropriations for meeting treaty obligations to furnish supplies, schools and farm implements to tribes are easily researched in the INDIAN index entries of the Statutes at Large.

American Indian Policy Review Commission
Meetings of the American Indian Policy Review Commission

Location: McFarlin Government Documents, Y 4.In 2/11:Am 3
This Commission was created in 1965 to conduct a comprehensive review of the historical and legal developments underlying the unique federal relationships with Indians and to recommend revisions in policies. The Commission's Final Report is a source of facts, opinions and Indian policy documentation. The recommendations of the Commission touch on almost every aspect of Indian policy.

Index to the Decisions of the Indian Claims Commission, 1946-1973
Location: MLIC NALC E93 .U5474
Also available online: (
A comprehensive index to all the claims and decisions of the ICC through 1973. Two indexes and a Table of Cases assist the user in finding relevant materials. Cases that originated with the ICC and moved to the Court of Claims when the ICC ceased to exist are traced.

American Indian Policy Review Commission. Final Report
Location: MLIC NALC, E93 .A25 1976
Submitted to Congress May 17, 1977. 2 vols. This report lists 2106 specific recommendations made by the Commission on the scope and nature of necessary revision in Indian Policy.

Indian Claims Commission Decisions
Boulder, Colo.: Native American Rights Fund, 1973?-1981?
Location: MLIC NALC E93 .U5474
"The volumes are exact reproductions of originals provided by the Commission, except where illegible copy has required that certain sections be retyped." Includes Index volume for volumes 1-29.

Annual Reports Indian Claims Commission
Location: McFarlin Library, Government Documents Collection, Y 3.In 2/6:1

 Cases Decided in the United States Court of Claims (Spine Title: Court of Claims Reports), Vol. 1-231 (1863-1982)
Location: MLIC Second Floor FEDERAL
Generally the Court of Claims had jurisdiction to render claims against the United States. However, Indian claims were specifically barred until August 13, 1946. The pre-1946 cases that appear in this reporter were brought on special jurisdictional acts of Congress. Post-1946 claims are reported in this set with decisions on appeals from the Indian Claims Commission (ICC). The Court of Claims was abolished on September 30, 1982. Decisions are continued in the West Group publication, the United States Claims Court Reporter. 

United States Claims Court Reporter (1982 - )
Location: MLIC Second Floor FEDERAL
The U.S. Claims Court was created in 1982 and assumed the trial jurisdiction of the abolished Court of Claims.

United States Federal Claims Digest
Location: MLIC Second Floor FEDERAL
Cases decided in the United States Claims Court, and decisions of the United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit and Supreme Court of the United States in review. Cancelled 9/97.

Indian Tribal Claims Decided in the Court of Claims of the United States
Location: MLIC IPC E98.L3 S547 1976
Briefed and compiled to June 30, 1947. 2 volumes.
This set provides assistance in locating pre-1946 Indian claims cases decided in the Court of Claims. It contains the records of 225 petitions and cases brought by Indians to the Court of Claims under special jurisdictional acts. The full decisions of these cases can be found in the above identified reports and in the Federal Supplement and the Federal Reporter.