IPLP Courses

The Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy (IPLP) Program offers a wide range of intellectually rigorous courses and clinics related to federal Indian law, tribal law and policy, and Indigenous peoples’ human rights.

Explore the foundational principles and doctrines governing the legal and political relationship between the United States and Indian tribes. The history of federal Indian law and policy, tribal property rights, congressional plenary power, the trust doctrine, tribal sovereignty, jurisdiction in Indian Country, and tribal government are the major topics covered in this course.

Domestic Violence presents many challenges to the legal system, both because of its sociological dynamics and because it is one of the rare situations where civil court orders (in the form of protection orders) are enforced through the filing of criminal charges. These already difficult challenges are further complicated when issues of tribal jurisdiction are layered in. This course will explore those challenges and methods of addressing them.

This course will explore current policy debates and legal issues involving American Indian children, including private family law disputes, state-initiated child welfare proceedings, adoption contests, and responses to family violence. The course will introduce students to the Indian Child Welfare Act, including its primary jurisdictional, procedural, and substantive provisions, flash points in state court litigation, and recent challenges to the constitutionality of ICWA. In addition, the jurisdictional principles governing inter-parental custody disputes over children will be covered.  The course will also examine selected topics relating to juvenile justice and public education.

The course will examine American Indian tribal courts, including tribal laws, codes, statutes, customs, and the interplay between tribal, state and federal law. Guest speakers from American Indian tribal courts and tribal governments will be featured.

Increasingly, issues concerning the rights of Indigenous peoples are gaining national attention and focus in many parts of the world. The emergence of Indigenous rights within the national model has given rise to a broad range of law and policy reforms in many countries and international organizations. The aim of this course is to provide students with a comparative perspective in regard to the development and construction of domestic legal systems that recognize the rights of Indigenous peoples and Indigenous communities. The history and legal frameworks surrounding the rights of Indigenous peoples will be explored in relation to the United States of America, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, and Australia. Broader coverage will be applied to several Latin American countries, Europe, Asia and Africa. The class will also provide a comparative perspective from the lens of international human rights law. Given the scale of comparative coverage, this course will generally approach the subject matter by way of thematic touchstones.

The emergence and continued success of the Indian Gaming industry has been a watershed moment in the history of Indigenous governance in the United States. In addition to the multitude of financial benefits Indian Gaming has brought to gaming tribes, the development of the industry itself has had a profound impact on tribal governance. By creating stakeholders both within, and outside of Indian Country, the Indian Gaming industry has empowered tribal governments to become a major player in the social, political, and economic forces that shape America. Any student that endeavors to represent Indian tribal interests in the corning years would benefit greatly from understanding the foundations of Indian Gaming Law.

The course will provide an examination of the nature of the water rights of Indian Tribal nations, and of Indian individuals, including the legal bases for those rights, and the unique legal status and legal history of Indian Tribal nations and their citizens.  The course will review current and historical law and policy trends in the assertion and use of Indian Tribal water rights.  The course will also examine the ability of Indian Tribal nations to regulate or impact water uses and water quality within their homelands and beyond.  Finally, the course will examine emerging approaches to asserting and recognizing water rights, and to managing water resources in an international legal context and the potential application of these developments to federal Indian law and Indian Tribal law.

Examines several themes: conflicts over which government has sovereign control over which resources; the role that tribal governments play in natural resource allocation and management; questions relating to ownership of natural resources; the changing federal policies relating to natural resources allocation; the role of federal courts, Congress, and Executive branches in relation to the trust responsibilities to protect tribal lands and resources; environmental protection, including EPA policy in relation to Indian Reservations; and natural resource development and management.

This course will familiarize students with the jurisdictional, governance, statutory, regulatory, and legal contracting topics necessary to understand energy development in Indian Country. Tribes have almost 5% of the renewable energy resources and almost 10% of the conventional resources in the country. The ability to develop these resources, so that tribes can directly benefit, requires a good understanding of the multiple jurisdictions and regulatory schemes as well as the various legal contracting mechanisms the energy marketplace requires. 

This two-unit experiential elective course, open to JD, LL.M. and S.J.D students with preference given to 3L February Bar exam takers, will focus on practice-based applications of critical race theoretical perspectives in race, gender, sexual orientation and class-based social justice lawyering movements. The course will expose students to the difficulties of defining and understanding the meanings of the term “race,” the nature of “racism” and racial oppression in practice-based and litigation-oriented settings. Through simulations, in-class exercises and workshops utilizing “flipped class” videotaped lectures and other web-based media, students will explore theories of racial formation, the formation of stereotypes, unconscious racism, and the gendered and sexualized nature of race and theories of racial identity and their relevance in client counseling and interviewing, trial and negotiating and other practice-based settings. Finally, experiential learning components designed to put theory into practice in the form of student-produced work products will further provide students with practical grounding and essential skills-training in the use of critical race theory and similar deconstructive and reconstructive methodologies in contemporary law reform and social justice movements.

Examines the United Nations and regional human rights systems as they apply to Indigenous peoples in the United States and around the world.

This course will analyze the expanding framework of, and the legal process leading to, regional and international regulation of the human environment. Topics addressed include the sources of international environmental law; regional and international efforts to protect the global commons; protection of endangered species; cross-border pollution and efforts to deal with such problems, with particular emphasis on the United States-Mexico border and the NAFTA instruments; climate change and global warming; conflicts between protection of the environment, economic development and sustainable development; and conflicts between trade, investment, and the environment. There will also be some discussion regarding how the United States will address global environmental issues such as the continuing negotiations to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

This course examines cultural heritage protection and the redefinition of Indigenous peoples' heritage as a proprietary resource. Discussion will include select case law, the ethical and economic issues raised by the worldwide circulation of Indigenous art, music, and biological knowledge, and the fundamental dichotomy of heritage as a protected resource within a multicultural society.

Preparation for the National NALSA moot court competition.

IPLP Clinics

The Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy (IPLP) Program offers students a wide variety of experiential and hands-on learning opportunities, which help prepare students for the practice of law. Experiential learning opportunities offered to students include IPLP faculty-led clinics and workshops, advocacy projects to advance Indigenous peoples' rights both domestically and internationally, and externship opportunities with tribal courts and justice departments, nonprofit advocacy organizations, and government agencies.

Students enrolled in IPLP’s Tribal Justice Clinic provide legal assistance to tribes throughout the Southwest, North America, and the world. They serve as tribal judicial clerks, write amicus briefs, develop legal strategies, and work beside criminal defenders and tribal prosecutors in courtroom settings. They contribute to important tribal justice projects, researching best practices, drafting legislation, and developing tribal codes. Students research legal issues and help try cases in support of tribal efforts to improve the administration of justice and good governance in Indian Country. The Tribal Justice Clinic gives students vital experience working with tribal communities on emerging legal and policy issues, preparing them as lawyers to enter the field with practical experience and established relationships with community leaders.

This clinic offers students opportunities to experience theories in the practice of international environmental law in situations that require innovative approaches to important cutting-edge problems. The proximity of the UA to Mexico, its strengths in environmental sciences, and the College of Law’s network and strengths in both Mexico and Canada creates a unique opportunity for up to 25 students – many with interdisciplinary backgrounds - to participate in a range of supervised assignments that are based upon partnerships with existing UA Departments, Centers, and Institutes, and a host of clients including tribal, state, and federal departments and or agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector.

This workshop provides an opportunity for students to be involved in live cases or advocacy efforts with a substantial international human rights dimension. The workshop focuses mostly, although not exclusively, on cases involving Indigenous peoples, including cases before United Nations human rights institutions and the inter-American human rights system that is linked to the Organization of American States. Workshop cases may also involve efforts to implement international human rights standards in particular situations through domestic court proceedings or other advocacy efforts at the domestic level. Past projects have involved students in drafting legal briefs, reports, amicus briefs, research memoranda, press statements, educational materials, and witness affidavits in cases arising in Belize, Canada, Congo, Brazil, Mexico, Suriname, Nicaragua and United States.

January in Tucson Courses

For three weeks each year, the January in Tucson intensive education session brings together distinguished faculty in the field of Indigenous governance and Indigenous rights, and gives them the opportunity to teach and hold discussions with Indigenous leaders, practitioners, and community members, as well as other individuals interested in Indigenous affairs.

Our views about what is right and wrong and the nature of the good life are part of what makes us who we are. These fundamental values shape how we interact with others, how we understand our rights and responsibilities and our relationships other peoples, species and the environment. Business ethics in the western world are shaped specifically by two theories, both springing from the European enlightenment, when democratic institutions were emerging and the economy was becoming industrialized. They are known as utilitarianism and deontology. They form the basis for western law as well as social science disciplines including economics and public policy.

Indigenous ways of understanding how to be a good person, as told through stories and the writings of modern Indigenous philosophers, are complex, nuanced, and embody the accumulated wisdom of generations. Historically, they supported the development of thriving nations and more recently they have survived the failed efforts of colonizers to replace them with western beliefs and practices. While these traditions are largely ignored or pushed aside there is a quiet revolution occurring in which academics, knowledge keepers, and communities are currently rediscovering modern applications for their long held ways of knowing.

Across the globe, Indigenous peoples are engaged in the work of Indigenous governance regardless of whether they use that term or not. This course will examine different systems of Indigenous governance with an emphasis on Indigenous peoples living in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.

While these four countries share certain features, like English legal and political heritages, they also differ in important ways. Those differences have affected the patterns, and outcomes of Indigenous self-determination and self-government efforts. Three questions form the subject matter of this course:

  •     What are the commonalities/differences among these four countries and their impacts on Indigenous assertions of self-governing power?
  •     How and why do the patterns of Indigenous self-government vary across these four countries?
  •     What, if anything, might Indigenous peoples learn from each other across these countries as they assert and implement rights of self-government?

The course will investigate the role that law plays in the lives of Indigenous peoples and in their on-going efforts to secure their rights of equality, tribal self-governance, and self-determination. The course draws from comparative sources with a focus on how law can be used pragmatically by Indigenous leaders, communities, their partners and advocates to effect meaningful change.


  •     How does law function to perpetuate a history of assimilation and racism within governmental institutions around the world?
  •     How can Indigenous peoples use law to secure rights and exercise tribal self-governance?
  •     What role can legal institutions play in the processes of Indigenous nation building?

This course considers the question, “What is a constitution?” and explores different types of Indigenous nation constitutions, important concepts for constitutions to address, and the process for developing one appropriate for each community.


  •     How do constitutions facilitate tribal self-governance?
  •     How can constitutions help shape development of capable governing institutions?
  •     What should Indigenous nations bear in mind when considering tribal constitution reform?
  •     What are constitutions, and what is their role in the lives of Native nations, and the history of Indigenous constitutional governance?

This course is about the process of starting and building a venture, not just a business venture but any new risky, exciting and value adding project. Entrepreneurship is a practice and a way of thinking that involves discovering or creating opportunities and then assembling or developing resources to deliver and capture the value related to the opportunity. This course will also assess, explore, critique, and celebrate entrepreneurship as an important aspect of Indigenous and non-Indigenous life. Together we will mix theory with practice and reality, and apply the principles, concepts and frameworks to situations that are important to you.

This course will cover tangible and intellectual cultural property, its identity, ownership, appropriation and repatriation and will begin with the history of the appropriation of cultural materials and the development of national and international laws.

Supported by three decades of research, Indigenous self-determination and tribal self-governance have proven to be the most effective policies when it comes to addressing economic disparities affecting Indigenous communities and empowering tribal governments to exercise real control over their cultures, lives, and societies.


  • What specific data support the core principles of Indigenous nation building (self-determination, effective and legitimate governing institutions, strategic orientation, and public-spirited leadership)?  
  • What is the basis of the argument that Indigenous self-determination and self-government are the most effective nation rebuilding policies?  
  • How can course participants contextualize the Indigenous research findings for their own communities?

The demand for Indigenous data is increasing in Indian Country as tribes engage in economic, social, and cultural development on a rapid scale. Additionally, tribes seek methods to protect their cultural and proprietary information. This course will examine the role of Indigenous data as an exercise of sovereignty in Indigenous governance and self-determination. It will dually explore data collected internally by tribes and Native communities, and information collected by external sources.

The course draws from best practices in Indian Country and across international Indigenous communities. With a focus on both scholarship and tangible data practice, students will receive hands-on training facilitating the pragmatic use of Indigenous data to build strong evidence bases for tribal governments, nations and communities.

At the completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Understand what terms such as “Indigenous data sovereignty” and “data governance” mean, and recognize the implications of such terms—both for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, communities, nations, and institutions;
  • Describe how Indigenous data sovereignty and data governance link to nation rebuilding; and
  • Realize how data that Indigenous peoples and nations collect, analyze, and use may be different from mainstream data and the importance of leveraging existing data to support Indigenous aspirations for collective well-being.

The food sovereignty movement has been a powerful force that, over the past several decades, has changed international trade institutions, property rights, and human rights law. Indigenous communities have been part of that movement and have affected how food sovereignty is used and understood as an idea.


  • Why is food sovereignty a concern of international trade, property, and human rights law?  
  •  How has food sovereignty been used by Indigenous communities and tribal governments as a means of strengthening Indigenous governance?  
  •  How might different Native nations want to critically think about food sovereignty in order to decide whether it is an idea and movement worth engaging with, and if so on what terms?

The relationship between Native nations and their tribal governments, as well as national, state and local governments have long been a source of historic tension for Indigenous peoples. Using a range of real-world case studies, this course explores how Indigenous nations can be treated as sovereigns by other nations. And how, as sovereigns, Indigenous nations can work with other governments to solve common problems in their nation-rebuilding efforts. Course participants will be provided with an overview of tribal-state and tribal-federal relations.


  • What factors might Native Nations use when contemplating litigation or negotiation strategies?
  • Does intergovernmental cooperation impair sovereignty?
  • What internal, tribal governance dynamics might affect the negotiation processes?
  • What constitutes a successful intergovernmental relationship?

Although the need for change is often great within Indigenous communities–particularly in places where Indigenous rights are not yet fully respected–it is not always clear how real change can come about. This course explores ways to assess and prioritize Indigenous community needs with respect to nation building and uses case studies to explore how governments work within legal constraints to serve their communities and assert their rights.

As Indigenous Peoples enter the 21st Century, economic development stands out as a critical challenge for the maintenance of their communities, identities, and status as sovereigns. This course examines the issues surrounding economic development as a tool for helping Indigenous Peoples achieve their goals on their own terms. The course will cover a broad range of issues including Indigenous nation-owned enterprises, entrepreneurship, procurement, Indigenous nation public finance, sovereignty, cultural preservation, constitutional reform and the development of an Indigenous nation’s legal infrastructure, securitization of resources, social welfare, and education, among others.

This course examines the development challenges faced by contemporary Native nations. Utilizing numerous case studies and extensive research on what is working and what is not working to promote the social, political, cultural and economic strengthening of American Indian nations, the course emphasizes themes applicable to community development and nation rebuilding worldwide. Historical and relevant federal Indian policy and case law are used as background material, but the course emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of the “nation building revolution” underway in Indian Country. Additional emphasis is placed on how tribal initiatives can conflict with federal case law, state jurisdiction, and federal policies and politics.


  • What is working, and what is not working, to promote the social, political, cultural and economic strengthening of Native nations and Indigenous governance?  
  • While the primary focus of the course is on the American Indian experience, what principles of nation building are applicable to Indigenous peoples worldwide?
  • In what ways have American Indian policy and case law promoted and impeded tribal self-governance?
  • What conflicts between federal, state, and local governments can arise from tribal assertions of self-governance?

The successful development of vibrant and sustainable economies in Indian Country continues to present challenges for Indian tribes, tribal governments, their citizens and potential business partners, as well as federal, state and local governments. The unique legal status of Indian tribes and the consequences of that status inform these challenges and require a detailed examination of federal policy and Supreme Court jurisprudence. Thus, attorneys play a central role in understanding and advising their clients about the challenges of tribal economic development.

Though within the broad rubric of economic development, this course will focus specifically on tribal business law, including the unique challenges tribes face when legislating and seeking to regulate business activity within Indian Country.


  • What unique challenges do tribal governments face when legislating and seeking to regulate business activity within Indian Country?
  • How has the legal status of Indian tribes been impacted by federal policy and the U.S. Supreme Court?
  • How can sustainable economies be developed in Indian Country? What range of business partnerships might result?
  • What steps should tribal governments take to create strong institutions that facilitate economic development?

Tribal research review processes challenge approaches to research that prioritize non-Indigenous methods and values, and allow non-Indigenous researchers to claim expert status over Indigenous Peoples, places, and knowledges. This course explores codes, guidelines, policies, and processes at tribes, other governments, and institutions that govern and steward research with Indigenous Peoples, nations, and communities; the infrastructure, capacity, and capability required at these governments and institutions to support tribal sovereignty; and implications for other entities such as funders and publishers.

At the completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Understand the different types of review processes that steward research with Indigenous nations, communities, lands, and peoples;
  • Describe the relationship between research governance and sovereignty;
  • Realize how Indigenous research governance may be different from mainstream research review processes.

The relationship between Indigenous peoples and the environment is one of the most discussed and controversial areas of law and policy affecting Indigenous peoples. From conflicts over jurisdiction to misconceptions about tribal values, the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the environment is even further complicated by competing demands for resources and disparate notions about the governance of Indigenous resources. The course will review some of the key laws, policies, and legal principles that govern the administration of Indigenous natural resources. We will also consider examples from jurisdictions abroad, including, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. 

At the completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Better understand jurisdictional conflicts over natural resources.
  • Assess the history of colonization and its legacy in affecting the ability of Indigenous peoples to maintain relationship with the land and resources.
  • Observe the extent to which legal principles and doctrines influence and fail to influence the courts in considering environmental issues affecting Indigenous peoples.

This course examines Indigenous organizations and Indigenous organizational concepts through the lens of Native Nation building. It seeks to discuss the role of community-based organizations (Indigenous-led and Indigenous-serving) as key stakeholders in the nation building process. We will introduce a regional, national, and global perspective to Indigenous organizations (via networks and intermediaries) as socio-political actors within Indigenous communities that effectuate change. Students will walk away with a framework for assessing social and institutional environments that acknowledges the value of Indigenous organizations and community building.

Upon completion of this course students will be able to:

  • Understand how organizations in Indigenous communities work to solve community challenges.
  • Examine the ways Indigenous organizations work to maintain healthy communities and their role within the Native Nation building framework.
  • Analyze the benefits and challenges of Indigenous community-based organizations.
  • Understand the distinction between organizational outputs and outcomes, i.e. social impact.

Many of us recognize leadership—or the lack of it—when we see it. But what are the keys to effective leadership? What skills do contemporary leaders need? What lessons can would-be leaders learn from the past, from the present, for the future?

As Indigenous peoples in various parts of the world reclaim their right to govern themselves and set about rebuilding their nations, these questions have increasing relevance and urgency. Many of those peoples carry their own histories of capable leadership: men and women who guided them through times of crisis and times of plenty. What can we learn from past legacies? Where should we look today for leadership lessons? How can we make sure that Native nations will have the kinds of leaders and the quality of leadership they need tomorrow?

This course considers various philosophies of leadership, the skills and behaviors that contribute to effective leadership, the leadership role in Native Nation rebuilding, and practical leadership lessons from Indigenous experience, past and present. It includes lecture, small-group exercises, readings, and in-class discussion.


Upon completing this course, participates will be able to:

  • Understand some of the keys to effective leadership that steward Native Nation rebuilding efforts among Indigenous nations, communities, lands, and peoples;
  • Distinguish between various Indigenous leadership philosophies and understand how these approaches have contributed to the historic and modern frameworks of Indigenous governance; and
  • Demonstrate the relevance of Indigenous leadership philosophies to a number of contemporary case studies in practical leadership examples from Indigenous communities around the world.

Today, the majority of federally recognized, US-based Native nations outside Alaska are involved in the casino gambling business. As a result, almost all these tribes are implicated in the problem of “problem gambling.” Parts I and II of this class explore the public policy context of problem gambling as it concerns Native nations and the brain science that explains gambling addiction and potential treatment pathways. Part III encourages class participants to reimagine Native nations’ inter-governmental, policy, philanthropic, and corporate responses to problem gambling. The course relies on lectures, in-class exercises, lay and academic readings, practical homework assignments, and a final policy advice paper to build a critical skill set with which tribal leaders and policymakers can engage the issue of problem gambling.


Upon completing this course, participates will be able to

  • Explain tribal governments’ multiple opportunities to engage the issue of problem gambling through policymaking and tribal government expenditures.
  • Respond to the criticism that tribal casinos increase problem gambling
  • Define problem gambling
  • Describe the nature of problem gambling as a disease
  • Make (general) policy recommendations for tribal government responses to the issue of problem gambling in their broad customer populations and within their communities.