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Indigenous Legal Research

Federal Legislation

While treaties create the framework for government-tribal relations for particular tribes, legislation is the primary mechanism for establishing the relationships that apply to all tribes.

Most statutes relating to Indians and tribal activities are federal (Worcester v Georgia (1832) 31 US (6 Pet) 515, 561 established that dominion over relations between Indian nations and the United States was vested in the federal government rather than state governments).  

Federal statutes are published in the United States Code ('USC'). The USC is available online on open access on the Office of Law Revision Counsel (US House of Representatives) website. This is the most current official version of the USC.

Title 25 of the USC is entitled Indians. This title contains most of the statutes relating to Indians and Indian tribes. The USC contains the text of the statute and references (known as credits) giving the dates of enactment and amendment. 


To find cases, secondary sources and other resources that have interpreted or discussed each section of Title 25, use the Annotated Code (USCA) on Westlaw (UniMelb staff & students). To access USCA, from the Westlaw homepage, select Statutes and Court Rules, then United States Code Annotated (USCA), then scroll to Title 25. Click on the section number in which you are interested, and at the top of the screen you will see information about the section's legislative history, references in secondary sources such as law review articles, and links to case law on the section. Notes of Decisions lists all cases citing the section. History shows the legislative history of the section, including proposed legislation, bill drafts, reports, congressional record, testimony, presidential messages, and reports. Citing References shows cases, secondary sources, court documents, statutes and rules that have cited the particular code section. Context & Analysis links to analysis of the provision in encyclopaedic works, law review articles etc.