Tribal Law Journal Blog

Recent Blog Posts

Swinomish Tribal Community v. 2002 BMW: Determining When Civil Forfeitures Violate ICRA’s “Excessive Fines” Clause

By Alejandro Alvarado Introduction Swinomish Tribal Community v. 2002 BMW is a Swinomish Tribal Court decision issued in March 2022 involving a civil forfeiture proceeding where the property owner challenges the tribe’s petition for forfeiture under the “excessive fines” clause of the Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA). In this case, the Swinomish Tribal Court adopts […]


The Impact of Covid-19 on Native American Students’ Access to Technology

By William Dunn Native American communities across the country have experienced numerous hardships over the course of the pandemic, ranging from limited access to medical care and other basic needs to extreme isolation for the most vulnerable members. The impact on student education will be felt for years in the future no matter where students […]

Jurisdiction Over American Indian Child Custody Cases

By Barbara Ryan The United States Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is constitutional later this year.[1] The Court may decide to keep the law, modify it or strike it altogether.  Before ICWA, child welfare agencies were ignorant or insensitive to cultural differences in child-rearing.[2] Over 75 percent […]

Peacemaking On the National Stage 

By: Erin Fitz-Gerald Editor’s Note: This article reflects on egregious violations of human rights (including genocidal violence) committed by colonial governments and sponsored by the Catholic Church. We welcome dialogue regarding the ideas expressed herein in the comments. Thank you. In the summer of 2021, graves of indigenous students were unearthed in Canada near boarding […]

Reflection: Juvenile (in)Justice for Indigenous Youth

By: Brittany Dutton-Leyda I spent last summer interning at the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico. I have always had an interest in criminal law, specifically defense, but I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to experience complex criminal law in a federal setting. I figured it would give me an opportunity […]

The Violence Against Women Act and The Necessity to Protect Indigenous Women

By: Bree Barnett Introduction             The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is once again up for reauthorization in 2021. VAWA has been reauthorized only three times since its enactment in 1994, in hopes of combatting the pervasive crimes that were being committed against women. Since its original passage in the mid-nineties, the act has been […]

Uranium Contamination of the Puerco River: 1979-Present

By: Nina Chester Uranium and uranium mining have been a constant force in my life. Three years before I was born, on July 16, 1979, a uranium mill tailings pond[1] ruptured at the United Nuclear Corporation (UNC) uranium mining operation in Church Rock, New Mexico – 40 miles upstream from my hometown of Lupton, Arizona […]

Reproductive Justice in Indian Country

By: Barbara Ryan Reproductive justice is on the minds of women from coast to coast, but likely not more than for Native American women living in Texas.  Native women face two harsh realities that will have a disproportionate impact on them, their families, and their communities. Native women experience higher rates of sexual violence than […]

They Became Terrorists Overnight: The Chilean Government’s Use of Anti-Terrorism Laws Against Mapuche Activists

By: Val Day-Sánchez “There are no guarantees of due process in these trials manipulated by the state…We are persecuted by state police, and the state appoints both the prosecutors and the public defence lawyers, who operate within a system and comply with a political model that favours vested economic interests in this country.”[1]  The Mapuche […]

Traditional Tlingit Law & Governance and Contemporary Sealaska Corporate Governance: 4 Core Values and a Jurisprudence of Transformation

Micah McNeil In this paper I discuss the traditional Tlingit law and governance at the initial time of contact with Europeans. I then discuss the transitionary period between the traditional Tlingit law and governance of the Tlingit Nation to the birth of the Sealaska Corporation through the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA).  Sealaska is […]

Reflection: Research of the Tarahumara Tribe of Northern Mexico

By: Anna Trillo In our Law of Indigenous People course in the fall of 2020 students had two options for the final deliverable; a tribal profile and research paper or an extended tribal profile. I chose the extended tribal profile, on a tribe from Northern Mexico, the Rarámuri, or more commonly known as, Tarahumara. I […]

Do Warring Tribes Go Against The Purposes of IGRA?

Author: Rob Waldroup I. Introduction The creation of Indian casinos and the processes under which they are established has created a paradox: many tribes attempt to enter into the multi-billion dollar business venture of Indian gaming, only to be blocked through legal and administrative challenges made by other tribes fearing competition. The purpose behind allowing […]

Washington State Department of Licensing v. Cougar Den, Inc.

Author: Micah McNeil Introduction In Washington State Department of Licensing v. Cougar Den, Inc., the state of Washington sought to tax Cougar Den, a wholesale fuel importer owned by a member of the Yakima Nation which brought fuel from Oregon for sale to tribal members.[1] The case demonstrates how the Yakima Nation Treaty of 1855 […]

The Implications of a Supreme Court Decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma for the Integrity of Indian Reservations

As a result of Justice Neil Gorsuch’s recusal, the U.S. Supreme Court has reached a deadlock in Sharp v. Murphy.[1]  Possibly to sidestep Gorsuch’s conflict of interest arising from the case’s procedural history in the Tenth Circuit, the Court granted certiorari at the end of last year in McGirt v. Oklahoma,[2] which raises similar questions about the jurisdictional status […]

Case Note: Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo v. City of El Paso[1]

by: Felisha Adams[2] Introduction The Federal Court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over a claim by the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo[3] against the city of El Paso, Texas for lands obtained through a Spanish land grant.  Relief for the quiet title action could be sought under state law but not federal law.  Although Indian law and property law […]

Law of Indigenous Peoples Paper Topic: Max Spivak

Law of Indigenous Peoples: The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and the Tlingit and Haida             To fulfill the writing seminar co-requisite of the Tribal Law Journal, I completed a brief profile of the Tlingit and Haida Tribes of Alaska and a larger objective review of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). In my studies and work […]

Law of Indigenous Peoples Paper Topic: Felisha Adams

Felisha Adams, Navajo Business Site Leasing Policies: Measuring Up to Diné Needs? (2019) This article has been created in response to the perceived difficulty in operating successful businesses on the Navajo Nation and as an effort to support tribal self-governance through economic development. There is well documented case law, history, and policies that evidence how […]

Law of Indigenous Peoples Paper Topic: Krista Thompson

The Fort McDowell Yavapai people are a federally recognized tribe living in central Arizona, amongst saguaro cactuses and along the Verde River. Yavapai people call themselves Abaa’jaa’ or “People of the Sun.” Historically, there were four bands of Yavapai, and the band living in Fort McDowell are known as the southern band or “Kwevkapaya.” Today, […]

Case Note: Kang v. Chinle Family Court (2018)

Introduction Kang v. Chinle Family Court involves service of process requirements in divorce proceedings between a Navajo and a non-Navajo spouse in tribal court.[1] This case demonstrates the fundamental Navajo principles of Diné bi beenahaz’áanii as they apply to the jurisdictional laws of Navajo courts over non-Navajo spouses. In this case, the Supreme Court of the Navajo Nation clarified […]

Law of Indigenous Peoples Paper Topic: Vanessa Hidalgo

Mexica Sustainability: Respecting Indigenous Knowledge as Law By Vanessa Hidalgo There are many legal traditions that have contributed to both the present common law and civil law traditions used in many countries today. These legal traditions portray the past, present and future of our societies. It is important to note that not all legal traditions […]

Law of Indigenous Peoples Paper Topic: Jessica Martinez

An Unrecognized People: The Story of the Chihene Nde Nation of New Mexico and their Struggle to Seek Federal Re-Recognition “Bik’egu indán naił hedansį. Nzhugoo na idaada idén í, naiłgunłí nazai shi nahi até ibił, hinłiłgu, naha anzí. ihexé” English Translation: “Creator of life we are honored by you, look over us. Firmly help us maintain our language […]

Law of Indigenous Peoples Paper Topic: Esther Jamison

Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women: A Roadmap for Advocacy Before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights The disproportionate level of sexual and physical violence experienced by indigenous women has garnered significant national and international attention in the past decade. Lethal violence against women is so common among indigenous communities in the United States and beyond […]

Law of Indigenous Peoples Paper Topic: Sean McKenzie

Examining Predatory Border Town Vehicle Sales from a Navajo Common Law Perspective By Sean McKenzie Background             The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission (“Commission”) has found that certain car dealerships located in towns surrounding the Navajo Nation “prey[ ] upon” Navajo consumers.[1] Predatory car sales practices include unethical sales practices designed to deceive consumers into signing unfair […]

Law of Indigenous Peoples Paper Topic: Kristen Polk

Last semester in Professor Zuni Cruz’ Law of Indigenous Peoples course, I chose to fulfill my writing seminar requirement by researching an issue of great importance to my tribe: protection of sacred Apache holy sites. My paper, Indigenous Resistance: The San Carlos Apache Fight to Protect Sacred Holy Sites, discusses Apache resistance to the desecration of […]

American Indian Day at the New Mexico State Legislature

“Honoring and Protecting Mother Earth for Future Generations” March 3, 2020-Albuquerque, New Mexico Honoring the past and learning how to improve the future is central to indigenous philosophy. New Mexico State Representative Derrick Lente discussed the importance of oral history and honoring stories from time immemorial. Lente shared his own story. He reminisced about his […]

President Fawn Sharp’s State of Indian Nations Address

By: Max Spivak On February 10, 2020, in Washington, D.C., Fawn Sharp (Quinault), the 23rd President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), delivered the State of Indian Nations Address. President Sharp, who is also the current President of the Quinault Indian Nation in Taholah, Washington, is the third woman to be NCAI President […]

Enduring Resource Extraction on the Navajo Nation

By: Esther Jamison The threat posed by fracking to the archeological ruins of Chaco Canyon has garnered international attention and nationwide advocacy, resulting in a protective ten-mile buffer zone between fracking activities and the National Heritage Site. Equally deserving of protection, Navajo Nation Council Delegate Daniel Tso gently chides, is the living culture: the Navajo […]

Creative Heroes

Look … in the sky … it’s a bird … it’s a plane … No, It’s … It’s an Indigenous Community! Albuquerque, NM – Indigi Pop X (IPX), the Southwest’s own creative community is giving answers to some of the Native world’s social issues—no cape or superpower necessary. If you have ever wondered why, after […]

Case Note: Nouri v. Crownpoint Family Court

Introduction Nouri v. Crownpoint Family Court involves a private custody matter of an enrolled Navajo child living away from the Navajo Nation lands.[1] This case demonstrates the fundamental Navajo principles of Diné bi beenahaz’áanii as they apply to the jurisdictional laws of Navajo courts over tribal children. In this case, the Supreme Court of the […]

Tribal Law Journal Alumni Spotlight: Heidi Todacheene

Heidi Todacheene is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. She is from Farmington, New Mexico and a graduate of the University of New Mexico, earning her J.D. from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 2015. She served on the Tribal Law Journal Editorial Board and Staff from 2013-2014 and as a […]

Case Note: Herrera v. Wyoming, 139 S. Ct. 1688 (2019)

On May 20, 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States released their newest contribution to Federal Indian Law. In Herrera v. Wyoming, the Court held that Wyoming’s entry into the Union does not abrogate off-reservation hunting rights guaranteed in the 1868 Treaty between the United States and Crow Tribe of Indians.[1] The Court specified […]

Indigenous Peoples Day at the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge

 October 14, 2019 – Albuquerque, New Mexico As New Mexico commemorated the first state-wide celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day, The Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, participated by hosting a celebration alongside the Rio Grande River. Rosie Thunderchief (Navajo/Diné, Pawnee, Arapaho, Ho-Chunk, Lakota and current Ancestral Lands Tribal VISTA) organized the celebration in partnership with […]

Case Note: Green Tree Servicing, LLC v. Duncan

Case Note: Green Tree Servicing, LLC v. Duncan Issue             This case note analyzes two related issues addressed in Green Tree Servicing, LLC v. Duncan: 1. Does an otherwise enforceable arbitration agreement become unenforceable under Navajo Nation law if it violates Navajo Nation public policy?[1] 2. When does an arbitration clause violate Navajo public policy? […]

Attorney General’s Advisory Subcommittee on Native American Issues Convenes in New Mexico

Attorney General’s Advisory Subcommittee on Native American Issues Convenes in New Mexico Last month, the District of New Mexico United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) hosted approximately sixty (60) United States Attorneys (USAs), Tribal Liaisons, and other law enforcement personnel for a meeting of the Native American Issues Subcommittee (NAIS) of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee.[1] […]

Case Note: United States v. Sterling Islands, Inc.

Case Note: United States v. Sterling Islands, Inc.[1] Introduction:             On May 20, 2019, the Honorable Judge James O. Browning of the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, issued a notable Memorandum Opinion and Order in the case of United States v. Sterling Islands.[2]  The Opinion expands the list of criminal […]

Case Note: United States v. Antonio

Case Note: United States v. Antonio United States v. Antonio, No. 18-2118, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 26657 (10th Cir. Sept. 4, 2019). Introduction United States v. Antonio involves federally recognized tribal land less than 20 miles away from the University of New Mexico School of Law. This case shows the complexities of criminal jurisdiction on […]

Isolated Judgement

In Oregon, arrogant Judges and Justices made decisions that have had lasting detrimental impacts on remote Alaskan tribes and their sovereignty. This post focuses on summarizing some of Sydney L. Harring’s arguments contained in her chapter “The Struggle for Tribal Sovereignty in Alaska, 1867-1900.” The chapter discusses how one Supreme Court of Oregon decision, a […]

Volume 19 of the Tribal Law Journal

We are pleased to introduce the publication of Volume 19 of the Tribal Law Journal. This volume features articles from Honorable Robert Yazzie of the Navajo Nation, Professor David Wilkins of the Lumbee Nation, and outgoing Co-Editor in Chief Anne Bruno. View our Journal here.

Red River, White Law

In the last two years, the Ganga and Yamuna Rivers were granted legal personality by the High Court of Uttarakhand, India;[1] the Te Awa Tupuawas declared a ‘legal entity’ as part of a settlement between the New Zealand Crown and the Whanganui iwi people;[2] and environmentalists brought an action on behalf of the Colorado River […]

Reflections: 2nd Annual Native Women’s Business Summit

On Friday, April 5th and Saturday, April 6th I attended the 2nd annual Native Women’s Business Summit organized by Native Women Lead. It was a well-attended event hosted at Isleta Resort and Casino, with panels and activities ranging from how to elevate your business through social media to “smashing the patriarchy,” a panel on how […]

Reflections: Voice Within Two Systems

The last Friday of March 2019, the Tribal Law Journal hosted a symposium for its 20thAnniversary. At the event, a documentary, “Tribal Justice” was screened. “Tribal Justice” follows the narratives of two female tribal judges working toward asserting a different voice and solutions to problems affecting their respective tribes. The film’s narrative centers on two […]

Tribal Law Journal 20th Anniversary Symposium and Film, Tribal Justice

On Friday, March 29, 2019, TLJ held its 20th Anniversary honoring Indigenous dispute resolution at UNM School of Law. The event began with a traditional lunch of Indian tacos and a prayer given by former Chief Justice of the Navajo Nation, Robert Yazzie. After lunch, Chief Justice Yazzie presented to the audience, discussing his perception […]

Counter Narrative: A Narrative of Stewardship

Tribal Law Journal Staff attended “Counter Narrative: Manifest Larceny”, a lecture presented by the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center on March 27, 2019. The lecture was part of a larger series that provides a platform for viewpoints that differ from mainstream media and history. Speakers at the event were Helen Padilla, Director of the American Indian […]

Restorative Justice and the Community: Tribal Justice

            Community, restoration, and balance: these are the goals and tenets of Peacemaking in tribal courts.[1]Peacemaking is centered on customary and traditional laws and the values of the community.[2]Through these values and traditional laws, Peacemaking courts reconnect individuals to their communities and the values within those communities.[3]The judge in a Peacemaking Court seeks to help the […]

Resistance and Wellness: A Summary of “Zapatista women inspire the fight against patriarchy”[1]

In 2018, female members of the Zapatistas hosted an event, for women and children only, on International Women’s Day that drew 7,000 people.[2]They called it the “First International Political, Artistic, Sports, and Cultural Encounter for Women who Struggle.”[3]The event raised awareness about issues specific to women, allowed for network building, and “gave space to consider […]

Case Note: Brackeen, et. al. v. Zinke, et. al.

Case Note: Brackeen, et. al. v. Zinke, et. al.[1] On October 10, 2018, the District Court for the Northern District of Texas produced one of the most significant district court cases regarding the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).[2]In this case the court found that ICWA was unconstitutional for violating Equal Protection, the Vesting Clause, the Tenth […]

Reflections: The Value of Women in Leadership

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “there will be enough women on the Supreme Court when there are nine.” Women are always needed in leadership roles, especially in the political and legal realm. I want to share an old Chamorro legend that tells a story of the importance of women and the value of […]

Reflections: Invasion Day in Australia

Every January 26thin Australia, schools, post offices, and businesses close to commemorate the day in 1788 that a convoy of 11 ships filled with British convicts captained by Author Phillips landed at Port Jackson in New South Wales. The reason for this trip was to establish a work colony for the British government. Over the […]

Reflections on Mesita Village of Laguna Pueblo Feast Day

On Wednesday, August 15, 2018 in Mesita, New Mexico, the village of Mesita, a village within the Laguna Pueblo, held its feast day, Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Assumption into Heaven.  A feast day is an intriguing celebration hosted by most of the pueblos in New Mexico and pays tribute to the patron saints […]

Reflections: 9th Annual Tribal Leadership Conference, Transitions

Reflections: 9th Annual Tribal Leadership Conference, Transitions I attended the 9th Annual Tribal Leadership Conference, Transitions, held from September 25-26, 2018 at the Pueblo of Isleta. This conference is held by the American Indian Law Center each year, and on September 26th I attended a conference session titled “Native Vote: Strategies for Increasing Native Voter […]

APS Responds to Assaults of Indigenous Students by Teacher

On November 28, 2018, Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) held a District Equity and Inclusion Committee (the committee) meeting to address a recent incident at Cibola High School. This incident involved a teacher who assaulted two indigenous high school students. This teacher cut one student’s hair and called the other a “bloody Indian” during an in-class […]

Culture in Silver

“Sterling Silver Heavy Gauge Bracelet” Alvin Todacheene Photo courtesy of Alvin Todacheene Posted on Instagram Sept. 21, 2018 @alvintodacheene (see more of Alvin Todacheene’s work by following him on Instagram)   Come out and acquire great art or join the Old Town Portal Market! The Old Town Portal Market Program (“Portal Market”) functions to […]

Tribal Sovereignty

On October 23, 2018, UNM School of Law’s chapter of The Federalist Society hosted Dr. Rossum of Claremont McKenna College to debate with our own Professor Wolfley on the topic of tribal sovereignty. Because this event was advertised as a “debate”, the students that planned to attend all anticipated heated, passionate discourse between the experts. […]

#WESHALLCONTINUE – Celebrations of Indigenous People’s Day

Last week on Monday, October 8th, 2018, morning prayer was held at 9:30am at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in celebration of Indigenous People’s Day. After prayer, the Pueblo Cultural Center hosted native dancers from the Pueblos of Zuni, Taos, Santa Clara, Jemez, San Felipe, Acoma, and San Ildefonso—as well as artists from Navajo Nation […]

Reflections on a talk by Mishauna Goeman

On Wednesday, September 19th at the University of New Mexico’s Zimmerman Library, Professor Mishuana Goeman, Tonowanda Band of Seneca, presented a project called Razing the Monumetalizing That Marks Us For Death, which unpacked the geographies and memories depicted in films about murdered and missing indigenous women.  At her talk at UNM, Professor Goeman, who is […]

Tribal Legal Preparedness Project

The University of Pittsburgh (PITT) Graduate School of Public Health has just launched their Tribal Legal Preparedness Project. After several years of communication and listening sessions with Tribal Nations, PITT Graduate School of Public Heath and the CDC have created this free resource to help tribes within the U.S. enhance their preparedness plans for public health emergencies. For […]

Opinion: Federal Bar Association’s Indian Law Conference

The Federal Bar Association’s Indian Law Conference took place from April 5-6, 2018 at the Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. This year, the Federal Bar Association celebrated its 43rd Annual Indian Law Conference. The theme of this year’s Indian Law Conference was the examination of how tribal nations can use existing and new tools […]

Reflections: FedBar Indian Law Conference and ICRA Symposium

I attended the Federal Bar Association Annual Indian Law Conference. At the dinner reception, I was placed next a woman tribal leader. During our conversation, she asked where I was from and, when she found out that I attend UNM School of Law, if I had attended the 50th ICRA symposium. We then began a […]

Reflections on the ICRA Symposium

I was the timekeeper for the “Indigenous Civil, Cultural, Political, and Human Rights: E/Merging Issues” panel hosted by Prof. Christine Zuni-Cruz.  I did not know what to expect, truthfully, but I can say that by the time the panel discussion was over, I was a bit shaken.  Each speaker spoke of the profound effects both […]

Indian Blood: A Presentation

On November 8, 2017 the UNM Native American Law Student Association, in collaboration with the State Bar of New Mexico Indian Law Section, hosted a lecture titled “Indian Blood.”  The event–covering a very important and often controversial issue–received overwhelming attention throughout the state and beyond.  The lecture was well attended, filling the largest UNM Law School […]

Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women Vigil

Community members gathered on a chilly fall day to honor the lives of the many indigenous women who have been murdered or gone missing. On October 27, 2017, indigenous women from four local organizations (First Nations Community Healthsource, Planned Parenthood, Albuquerque Indian Health Board, and Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women) held a vigil […]

Historical Trauma and Healing from Boarding School Abuse

From the 1890s to the 1970s, the U.S. government sought to “Christianize” Native Americans by separating children from their Native culture, which ultimately led to one of the darkest chapters in Native American history: boarding schools.[1] Many Native American children suffered from both physical and emotional abuse while attending boarding schools, which has given rise […]

Taking Time for Diversity

I took a trip through the Pueblo of Isleta today on my way to a meeting. I was amazed at how much I have forgotten – the beauty and uniqueness of the pueblo, the strength of the people who live there and have lived there for so long, and the richness of the history and […]

“How Tribal Self Determination May Save Civilization” – A Seminar by Hon. Randolph Collins & Hon. William Bluehouse Johnson

On October 10-13, 2017, the National American Indian Court Judges Association (NAICJA) held its 48th Annual National Tribal Judicial and Court Personnel Conference at the Isleta Resort and Casino. The theme of the conference was “Tribal Justice: Building and Strengthening Relationships and Partnerships.” NAICJA organized the conference for its members and networks of multiple Tribal […]

Reparations for Forced Adoptions in Canada

The Canadian Government announced Friday, October 6, 2017, that it would pay 750 million Canadian dollars in reparations for its forced adoption program of native children.[1]  Part of the reparations is a settlement of an Ontario class action lawsuit that was decided in February after eight years of litigation.[2]  The forced adoption program ran in […]

Sounds that Heal the Soul

On Wednesday, September 21st, two women, Delores Mondragón and Nicole Raphael, came to the University of New Mexico School of Law on their way to Taos, New Mexico for their annual Veteran Women’s Indigenous Healing Circle. The group travels around the world to hold a national healing circle for veteran women. Last year they were in Hawaii. […]

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and Wind River

The Wind River film touched on many issues that Native people face. A wildlife officer, the protagonist, found the body of an 18-year-old Native woman; an autopsy later revealed that she was raped.  The film highlighted violence that Native women face and the challenges in bringing justice for Native women who experience violence. A study […]

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