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Indian Law Program

Curriculum

The courses below are offered on a rotating basis, with a few offered each school year. Check with the Registrar for a current list.  In addition, several advanced Indian law courses are taught each summer by leading scholars from across the country.

Criminal Law in Indian Country

This course Criminal Law in Indian Country is designed to reflect upon crime and punishment in Indian Country, and the embedded story within the shared “criminal” history of tribal nations.  We will name and explore impacts on Tribal sovereignty and individual rights of Native American Indians that have occurred over time through U.S. policy, statute and case law including Treaties, Crow Dog and the Major Crimes Act, Public Law 280, the Indian Civil Rights Act, Oliphant and Duro, and recent Congressional efforts to address the perception of lawlessness on reservations. With historical impacts in mind, we examine contemporary issues such as Native American overrepresentation in the criminal justice system, sentencing disparity, and disturbing statistics regarding Natives as victims of crime. Students will also have an opportunity to review the unique aspects of criminal jurisdiction in the Northwest as part of the general understanding of criminal law and justice in Indian Country.

Cultural Resources Protection

This course addresses preservation and cultural resources law in a variety of contexts with an emphasis on emerging issues under the National Historic Preservation Act, the Native American Graves Protection & Repatriation Act, and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. This course will also examine the legal framework for the protection of cultural property internationally, covering classic controversies as well as more recent events

Family Law in Indian Country

This course will examine Indian child welfare matters, including the analysis of federal policies and the impact on Indian families and community; the Indian Child Welfare Act and tribal, state, and federal law. In addition, the course will provide an overview of issues concerning Native American youth and families from an Indian community perspective. Special emphasis will be given to resolving family disputes using case law, family conferencing and traditional dispute resolution models.

The course takes a multi-disciplinary look at evolving family systems (boarding schools to urban populations), social controls (culture and ceremony), institutional structures (tribal, councils), state and federal courts and laws, violence data and racism. Students will discuss strategies and innovations to address contemporary issues in the application of Federal Indian law.

Students will review the historical and cultural aspects of ICWA as well as the practical application. Students will examine the recent changes to the Major Crimes Act in relation to crimes that are a violation against women and children in Indian Country. Students will research the just released first comprehensive regulations for the substantive legal requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA. The regulations provide the first legally binding federal guidance on how to implement ICWA. The regulations will go into effect 180 days from the date of their release June 8, 2016, providing time for state agencies, private agencies, and state courts to prepare for their implementation.

Gaming and Economic Development in Indian Country

An examination of issues regarding economic activity in Indian country, including gaming, asset-extractive activities such as logging and mining, job creation through manufacturing and attraction of business investment to reservations, and the creation of functioning reservation economies by tribal governments. The history of tribal entrepreneurial activities and a focus on the legal, sovereign, judicial, regulatory, and funding challenges that tribal governments face in bringing beneficial economic growth to Indian country. Course evaluation will be by a two-hour exam or through a paper at the student’s option. Prerequisite: Completion of or current enrollment in Federal Indian Law.

Indian gaming concerns the federal, tribal and state law regarding the development of gaming and related enterprises in Indian country. This course will survey the historical background behind Indian gaming and further examine the modern legal system governing the operation and regulation of Indian gaming activities.

General topics to be covered include the jurisdictional precepts to gaming in Indian country, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, tribal-state compacts, and regulatory oversight schemes of Indian gaming activities. Emerging issues also will be reviewed, such as taking land into trust for gaming purposes and diversification of tribal gaming. In addition, coursework will include review of financing documents, contracts involved in the operation gaming enterprise, and tribal legal and judicial systems that support tribes’ economic endeavors.

Federal Indian Law

The development of federal Indian law from the late 19th century to the present. Emphasis given to unique principles of law concerning tribal sovereignty, the federal trust relationship, hunting, fishing, and water rights, and the interplay between tribal, state, and federal criminal and civil jurisdiction. Special attention to federal statutes that pertain specifically to Native Americans. These statutes and the above principles of law are discussed in the context of self-determination.

Lawyering in Indian Country

This 2-credit course considers the intersection of Federal/State/Tribal administrative practices. Students will be taught the nuts and bolts of working with a wide variety of entities in the area of government to government relations, with a focus on tribal law. Although focused on tribal law, this class would also be useful for students interested in local government. Specific topics include tax agreements, MOU/MOA, contracts, policies, code writing, resolutions, and legal opinions. Course student goals include being 1) able to recognize and understand the basic principles of federal Indian law as applied by in-house counsel in the development of tribal law; 2) able to understand and critically examine tribal legal and policy issues, and 3) able to effectively communicate, orally and in writing, to tribal administration and tribal council.

International Law & American Indians 

Europeans used international law in North America from the beginning of their explorations and settlements on this continent. They used the Doctrine of Discovery to claim for themselves many of the sovereign, diplomatic, commercial and human rights of native peoples. 

The Doctrine still applies to American Indians and Indian Nations today. In addition, international law is starting to be applied to American Indians, including the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that was adopted by the UN General
Assembly on September 13, 2007. Some American Indians and tribal governments are also beginning to look to the Organization of American States as an alternate venue to pursue claims against the United States. We will address these issues and more in this class.

NALSA Moot Court

During the fall, students research a problem in a specific area of Indian law. Students prepare appellate briefs and participate in oral arguments based on the problem. Students from the fall class are selected to represent the school in the national NALSA moot court competition held in the spring.

Native American Indian Civil Rights

This course analyzes the nature, scope and limitations of civil rights protections in Indian Country for Native American Indians and non-Natives. As a dual-citizen, the Native American Indian possesses a distinct political relationship with tribal government(s) and the United States government as separate sovereigns. Thus, the individual Indian occupies a unique position in civil rights law. The course looks to the power and limitations of the United States to adequately protect the civil rights of Natives under its own constitution, as well as the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 (ICRA) as a vehicle to protect the rights of individual Indians vis-a-vis their tribe or other tribal governments.

Students will examine the emergence of civil rights protections for individual Indians in Indian law and constitutional law, and study their enforcement in federal, state and tribal courts. We will identify the constitutional and statutory protections afforded to Indians and non-Indians and evaluate their impact and efficacy for Indians in state/federal and tribal forums and non-Indians in tribal courts. Materials will address foundational principles of equal protection, due process, religious freedom, and protection from harm at the hands of the government for (non) Indians on and off the reservation.

The class also explores the tribal role and response to ICRA, including the development of tribal infrastructures, common law and remedies to protect its citizens. Throughout the course, students will be challenged to analyze the so-called tension between individual rights and tribal collective rights and generate a discussion on tribal self-determination, good governance, and human rights.

Native Natural Resources Law

Survey of natural resources law, including water, timber, mining, fish, and wildlife. Resource protection and development in the context of treaty rights and conflicting sovereignty. Special attention is given to the regulatory powers of the federal government and tribal governments, as well as to the competing interests of federal, state, and tribal entities. Students gain an enhanced understanding of the legal positions of tribes intent on asserting and preserving treaty obligations.

Externship and Field Placements

Application Process

Second- or third-year law students with an interest in Indian Law are welcome to apply to any of the listed opportunities below, including students who wish to focus on Indian Law or students that simply wish to gain some exposure to legal issues affecting Indian Country.

Lewis & Clark Law School actively maintains relationships with many other entities and alumni that are willing to offer our law students learning opportunities on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, students interested in opportunities beyond those listed below are encouraged to meet with Professor Caroline Lobdell or Dr. Carma Corcoran to discuss particular interests, geographical or otherwise.

Submit a letter of interest, an unofficial transcript, a resume, and writing sample to: Western Resources Legal Center, Caroline Lobdell, Executive Director, via email to Lisa Arth at: larth@wrlegal.org. Please use the subject line of “Indian Law Externship Application” for your email. Alternatively, you can hand deliver your materials to Western Resources Legal Center, on Lewis & Clark’s law campus, 1st Floor of the LRC.

Your application must indicate the semester you are applying for and the number of credit hours (i.e., how many hours a week being sought). Please include your name, contact information, and year in law school in your letter of interest. For conflict check purposes, each candidate must also specify work (paid or unpaid) or any other clinics being applied for that may pose a conflict. Applications are accepted and considered on a rolling basis.

Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission

Who you will work with: The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission coordinates management policy and provides fisheries technical services for the Yakama, Warm Springs, Umatilla, and Nez Perce tribes. CRITFC’s mission is to ensure a unified voice in the overall management of the fishery resources and, as managers, to protect reserved treaty rights through the exercise of the inherent sovereign powers of the tribes.

Externship Description: CRITFC employs lawyers, policy analysts, and fisheries enforcement officers who work to ensure that tribal treaty rights are protected. All these activities are done in careful coordination with and under the direction of member tribes. The commission works closely with state and federal agencies to ensure fair harvest sharing between tribal and non-tribal fisheries.

Requirements: A detailed understanding/interest of Indian law, environmental law and natural resources law. The student must possess the ability to work independently and produce high quality work on a deadline. Preference will be given to students who have taken Indian law.

Location: Portland, OR

Supervising Attorney: Christine Golightly, golc@critfc.org

Coquille Indian Tribe

Who you will work with: Plank House Counsel provides legal services to the Coquille Indian Tribe on issues involving federal Indian and tribal law. Plank House Counsel works on an wide variety of issues, including: tribal sovereignty and governance; treaty rights; water rights and natural resource management; land transactions and trust issues; juvenile dependency and Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) issues; economic development and employment matters; and implementation of the federal tribal housing assistance program, NAHASDA.

Externship description: The externship will focus on tribal land and treaty issues, economic and employment matters, juvenile dependency, and natural resource management issues, among other tribal, federal, and state issues applicable to Indian tribes and their members.

Requirements: A detailed understanding/interest of Indian law, business and employment law, and environmental and natural resources law. The student must possess the ability to work independently and produce high-quality work on a deadline. Preference will be given to students who have taken Indian law, administrative law, and environmental or natural resources law courses.

Location: Portland, Oregon

Supervising Attorney: Brett Kenney, brett@plank.house, or Scott Mickelson, scottmickelson@coquilletribe.org

Cow Creek Tribe

Who you will work with: The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians upholds Tribal Government, protects and preserves Tribal sovereignty, history, culture and the general welfare of the Tribal membership, and serves to provide for the long-term economic needs of the Tribe and its members through the economic development of Tribal lands. The Tribe encourages and promotes a strong work ethic and personal independence for Tribal members, while strongly upholding the “government to government” relationship with local, State and Federal governments. The Tribe constantly strives to maintain and develop strong cooperative relationships that benefit the Tribe and local community.

Externship description: Essential duties and responsibilities include the following, but are not limited to assisting in daily activities and operations of the Legal Department; assist in drafting codes, legal documents, resolutions, contracts and other legal documents; conduct legal research and draft memos; maintain confidentiality; and must adhere to all policies and procedures of the Cow Creek Indian Tribe.

Requirements: A detailed understanding/interest of Indian law, environmental law and natural resources law. The student must possess the ability to work independently and produce high quality work on a deadline. Preference will be given to students who have taken administrative law and/or have experience in the oil and gas industry.

Location: Roseburg, Oregon. Cow Creek does not want housing to dissuade students from applying. Interested students are encouraged to apply and advise if housing is a barrier.

Supervising Attorney: Dirk Doyle, ddoyle@cowcreek.com

Cowlitz Indian Tribe

Who you will work with: The Legal Extern will work in the Cowlitz Legal Department and will, under the supervision of the General Counsel, assist the department with preparing and reviewing contracts, legal documents, codes, and ordinances. The Legal Extern will perform legal research and writing to assist the Department in its role representing and advising the Cowlitz Indian Tribe. The legal Extern will be expected to work at the Tribe’s Longview, WA location with the opportunities for site visits to the Ridgefield, WA; Vancouver, WA; Toledo, WA; and Tukwila, WA locations.

Externship description: Essential duties and responsibilities include the following, but are not limited to assisting in daily activities and operations of the Legal Department; assist in drafting codes, legal documents, resolutions, contracts and other legal documents; conduct legal research and draft memos; maintain confidentiality; and must adhere to all policies and procedures of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, including preemployment drug testing and must successfully complete a preemployment background investigation. This externship takes place in an office setting with minimal physical requirements. This is not an exhaustive list. The Legal Extern will be required to perform other duties as assigned.

Requirements: Must be currently enrolled at an ABA-accredited law school, with at least one year of coursework completed; be familiar with LexisNexis; and have excellent organizational skills. Preference will be given to students with coursework in Indian law.

Location: Longview, WA.

Supervising Attorney: Phil Harju, pharju@cowlitz.org

Dorsay & Easton

Who you will work with: Dorsay & Easton LLP provides legal services to tribal clients on issues involving federal Indian law and tribal law. The firm’s primary clients are Northwest tribal governments and businesses, while the firm also serves as general counsel to several different tribes in the region. Dorsay & Easton thus works on an extremely wide variety of issues, including: tribal sovereignty and governance; treaty rights; water rights and natural resource management; land transactions and trust issues; juvenile dependency and Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) issues; economic development and employment matters; and implementation of the federal tribal housing assistance program, NAHASDA.

Externship description: The externship will focus on tribal land and treaty issues, economic and employment matters, juvenile dependency, and natural resource management issues, among other tribal, federal, and state issues applicable to Indian tribes and their members.

Requirements: A detailed understanding/interest of Indian law, business and employment law, and environmental and natural resources law. The student must possess the ability to work independently and produce high quality work on a deadline. Preference will be given to students who have taken Indian law, administrative law, and environmental or natural resources law courses.

Location: Portland, Oregon

Supervising Attorney: Lea Ann Easton, leaston@dorsayindianlaw.com

Haglund Kelley

Who you will work with: Haglund Kelley is a full service law firm known for our expertise in litigation and a special focus on antitrust law, commercial litigation, employment law, environmental and natural resources law, government affairs, Indian law, maritime law, real property and land use law, as well as personal injury, negligence and wrongful death law.

Externship description: May include providing legal advice to the tribal council and the tribal government’s departments, drafting ordinances, representing the tribal community in lawsuits including Indian Child Welfare Act, employment and other business matters, and providing legal representation on economic development or other projects.

Requirements: A detailed understanding/interest of Indian law, environmental law and natural resources law. The student must possess the ability to work independently and produce high quality work on a deadline. Preference will be given to students who have taken Indian law.

Location: Portland, OR

Supervising Attorney: Christopher Lundberg, clundberg@hk-law.com

Hobbs, Straus, Dean & Walker

Who you will work with: For over 30 years, Hobbs Straus has worked to help tribes realize positive change in Indian Country. They are committed to providing Indian and Alaska Native tribes and tribal organizations with the highest quality legal services and advocacy. Their extensive and unique experience allows them to understand the challenges tribal governments face in the context of Indian law’s past, present, and future. The foundation of their practice is built on the recognition that tribes have an inherent right to self-government and matters related to tribal sovereignty permeate all practice areas. Promoting and defending tribal sovereignty is the backbone of their practice. They have represented numerous tribal clients before tribal and federal courts, including cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Externship description: Externs will work on almost every aspect of federal Indian law, all with the goal of protecting and defending tribal sovereignty. Specifically, practice is focused on areas related to Tribal Affairs, Self-Determination and Self-Governance, Programs and Services, Indian Housing, Gaming, Economic Development, and Natural Resources.

Requirements: A detailed understanding/interest of Indian law, environmental law and natural resources law. The student must possess the ability to work independently and produce high quality work on a deadline. Preference will be given to students who have taken Indian law.

Location: Portland, OR

Supervising Attorney: Ed Goodman, egoodman@hobbsstraus.com

Kilpatrick Townsend

Who you will work with: An Indian Law Practicum with Kilpatrick Townsend’s Native Affairs practice group is an ideal firm experience, exposing law students to large firm culture through the lens of the smaller practice group in Seattle, Washington.

Externship description: In addition to invaluable coaching and guidance from an experienced group of Indian law practitioners, the law student will research and draft memoranda on substantive legal issues as assigned by the supervising attorney. The law student will also interact with other practice groups in the Seattle office and will have the opportunity to learn more about general issues surrounding the business of running a legal practice as well as stratified law firm structure.

Requirements: All students are welcome to apply, however former students of the Western Resources Legal Center (WRLC) will be given preference. A detailed understanding/interest of Indian law, business and employment law, and environmental and natural resources law. The student must possess the ability to work independently and produce high quality work on a deadline. Preference will be given to students who have taken Indian law, administrative law, and environmental or natural resources law courses.

Location: Seattle, WA.

Supervising Attorney: Rob Roy Smith, rrsmith@kilpatricktownsend.com

Sage Legal Center

Who you will work with: Sage Legal Center is a nonprofit law firm serving the needs of children and adults in juvenile dependency and adoption cases. While many of Sage’s engagements are as court appointed counsel due to client income limitations, Sage also represents privately retained clients. Sage lawyers have extensive experience with application of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

Externship description: In addition to representing adults and children in ICWA cases, Sage also advises Native American tribes, other Oregon attorneys and private individuals on ICWA cases involving parties with Native American heritage.

Requirements: A detailed understanding/interest of Indian law, environmental law and natural resources law. The student must possess the ability to work independently and produce high quality work on a deadline. Preference will be given to students who have taken Indian law.

Location: Portland, OR

Supervising Attorney: Kristy Barrett, kristy@sagepdx.org

Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe

Who you will work with: The Office of Legal Counsel is the in-house legal department for the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe and handles various legal issues of the Tribe including civil transactional work, litigation, child welfare, and acts as the prosecuting office for the Tribe.

Externship description: The Office of Legal Counsel for the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe is seeking capable externs to assist its office. Externs will be given a variety of duties and opportunities to experience the breadth of work that comes with in-house counsel for an Indian Tribe. Externs can expect to be given research assignments ranging from jurisdictional issues, land use, the fee-to-trust process, taxation, and other matters as they arise, some of which may be in anticipation of litigation. Externs may have the opportunity to participate in contract drafting and review. Externs will also have the opportunity to observe and participate in proceedings in Tribal Court.

Requirements: A detailed understanding/interest of Indian law, environmental law and natural resources law. The student must possess the ability to work independently and produce high-quality work on a deadline. Preference will be given to students who have taken Indian law.

Location: Darrington, WA

Supervising Attorney: Kehl Van Winkle, kvanwinkle@sauk-suiattle.com

Tulalip Indian Tribe

Who you will work with: The mission of the Office of Reservation Attorney is to support, defend and advance the interests of The Tulalip Tribes of Washington by providing quality legal services to tribal policymakers and staff. The Tulalip ORA serves as chief legal representative and advisor to the Tulalip Board of Directors. Under the policy direction of the Board, the ORA provides timely and efficient legal services to directors, officers, employees and staff of tribal government and tribal business enterprises, including subordinate tribal entities. The ORA also acts as liaison to federal, other tribal, state and local governments, court systems, officials, professional associations, and interest groups on matters of interest to the Tulalip Tribes.

Externship description: Under the technical supervision of the Reservation Attorney, the ORA provides legal services on a wide range of issues. Practice areas include natural and cultural resources, land use, child support/ welfare, real property, treaty rights, procurement, preference, tort, contract, constitutional, gaming, municipal, environmental, intellectual property, natural resources and employment law and litigation.

Requirements: A detailed understanding/interest of Indian law, environmental law and natural resources law. The student must possess the ability to work independently and produce high-quality work on a deadline. Preference will be given to students who have taken Indian law.

Location: Tulalip, WA

Supervising Attorney: TBA