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Working Paper on the Availability of Tribal Law

Last year I became responsible for our collection of Native American materials at the UW Law Library. In reviewing the collection and availability of sources, I learned that tribal legal materials are very difficult to track down, especially for non-Indians.

There are 566 federally recognized tribes in the United States today. For a majority, no law has been published. Where is it available, tribal law is scattered across various websites, databases and print publications.

Curious about why this was true, I did some research on the matter. I've recently posted a working paper on SSRN that describes my findings. The paper, entitled 'Whatever Tribal Precedent There May Be': The (Un)Availability of Tribal Law, explores the costs and benefits of publishing tribal law and presents various publication options.

Part I analyzes why tribal law may not be more widely available; part II illustrates how making tribal law more accessible can benefit tribes and others; and part III describes how tribes can make their law available if they so choose.

An appendix lists existing publicly available tribal law collections, both historical and current.