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Indigenous Legal Research

Finding Cases on a Topic

For detailed information about finding US cases, refer to the Cases page on our US Legal Research Guide.

To find significant/leading cases on Native American law:

  • use secondary sources such as books and journal articles.
  • use the US commentary sources listed in this guide - these are arranged by topic.
  • use the Law Library of Congress' United States Reports (open access) to see over 300 decisions of the Supreme Court (from 1793 to date) on Federal Indian and Tribal Law. The reports are PDF replicas of the official printed United States Reports. This database cannot be searched effectively, but you can narrow the topic by using the Subject menu on the lefthand side of the page. 66 subjects are listed.

To find all cases on your topic, we recommend using Westlaw. The two recommended approaches are:

  1. From the homepage, select West Key Number System, and scroll to 209 INDIANS. Use the + symbols to navigate to and click on your topic. The cases are listed by the latest first. You can then narrow your search by jurisdiction, court etc.

  2. Use Federal Native American Law Cases. From the Westlaw homepage, select Practice Areas > Native American Law > Federal Native American Law Cases. This database includes cases from the US Supreme Court, courts of appeal, district courts, bankruptcy courts, Court of Federal Claims, U.S. Tax Court, military courts, and related federal and territorial courts that relate to Native Americans. Coverage begins with 1789. Use Advanced Search to look for cases on your topic.

Finding Cases on Legislative Provisions

Title 25 of the United States Code is entitled Indians. This title contains most of the statutes relating to Indians and Indian tribes. To find cases 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 Citing References - this shows and links to all cases discussing the section - arranged alphabetically by topic. Notes of Decisions includes Cases (all cases citing the section, arranged chronologically, with the most recent decision first), Trial Court Orders and Documents (pleading, motions, memoranda, affidavits etc, Appellate Court Documents (briefs, petitions and filings) and Administrative Decisions & Guidance.

Tribal Cases

West's American Tribal Law Reporter includes decisions from approximately 24 American tribal courts, and judgments on appeal (including Supreme Court judgments) from tribal courts.

From the  Westlaw homepage, select Practice Areas > Native American Law > All Tribal Cases. You can then select All West's American Tribal Law Reporter or a particular Tribe.