Criminal Law in Indian Country

Criminal Law in Indian Country gives students an opportunity to reflect upon crime and punishment of Native American Indians and non-Indians within a unique framework of federal Indian law in the United States. The readings and discussions are designed to investigate issues of criminal law, constitutional law, Indian law and civil rights as they impact Indian Tribes and policy, individuals, and ultimately, justice in Indian Country.

We will identify and analyze the federal policies, statutes and case decisions intended to address law and order among the Indigenous tribal peoples of the United States, including the Indian the Major Crimes Act, Public Law 280, Indian Civil Rights Act, and its amendments. Through the study of original treaty language to the recent decision in Oklahoma v. McGirt, we explore the historical underpinnings of criminal law in Indian country and the current impacts on Tribal sovereignty and individual tribal members. With this shared “criminal” history in mind, we examine contemporary issues such as Native American overrepresentation in jails, and prisons, sentencing disparity, juvenile justice, and disturbing statistics regarding Natives as victims of crime. Importantly, the class will learn how to analyze and sort through the unique jurisdictional issues and the criminal process applicable to Tribes and individual Native Americans.

Students will also have an opportunity to review the unique aspects of criminal jurisdiction in different regions as part of the general understanding of justice and jurisdiction in Indian Country.