Summer American Indian & Indigenous Law


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June 5 - August 11, 2017

Spend the summer in beautiful Missoula, Montana studying Indian Law! The School of Law invites you to participate in the tenth annual Summer American Indian and Indigenous Law Program, June 5 - August 11, 2017. This year we will be offering nine courses taught by a faculty comprised of expert Indian law scholars and practitioners from around the country. Participants in the program may choose from any of the nine courses or take them all. Courses will be offered for law credit (for matriculated law students) and cross-listed for graduate credit. CLE credits will also be available pending application.

Registration Information

School of Law and Graduate Students

Current law and graduate students at the University of Montana may register for courses as they normally would through cyberbear. Program courses are offered through the School of Extended and Lifelong Learning (SELL) at the University of Montana. A flat fee of $650/credit will apply to each course. Students must take at least six credits to qualify for financial aid in the summer term. In addition, tuition waivers may not apply to the fees for summer courses.

Visiting Students

Law students currently enrolled at other institutions should contact Sarah Pepe, Director of Admissions, at sarah.pepe@umontana.edu or (406) 243-2396 for enrollment and registration information. A summer application for admission will need to be submitted.

Registration for CLE Credit

CLE credit is pending approval.  Credit amounts vary by course and will be listed below along with the tuition rate and registration link for each course once available. Names of those attending for CLE credit will be submitted to the State Bar of Montana.  Attendance at all sessions is required for full CLE credit.

2017 Course Schedule

Indian Law Research

Professor: Stacey Gordon
Credits: 1
Dates: June 5 - 9
Time: 9:00 - 11:30 a.m.
Summer Housing: Application (if needed)

Because tribes are sovereign governments, the field of Indian Law encompasses distinct legal issues and legal sources. Researching both federal Indian law (the law of the relationship between tribal governments and the U.S. government) and tribal law (the law of individual tribes) requires an additional set of tools and research skills to those students are introduced to in a basic legal research course. In this course, students will learn the skills and sources necessary to research general Indian law issues as well as the very specialized skills and sources used in researching the legal history of a tribe, including reserved treaty rights. The course will cover researching treaties, Indian land claims, statutory and case law, and tribal law. Students will actively participate in creating a tribal legal history throughout the course.


Mastering American Indian Law

Professor: Maylinn Smith
Credits: 2
Dates: June 12 - 16
Times: 9:00 a.m. -12:00 p.m., 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Summer Housing: Application (if needed)

This course looks at fundamental aspects of American Indian law and provides a basic understanding of core Indian law principles, both on the federal and tribal level. The course familiarizes participants with the development of foundational concepts in the area of Indian law and addresses the continuing impact of federal legislation and court actions on tribal governance structures and principles of sovereignty. In addition to providing substantive information on legal principles associated with American Indian law, participants will engage in practical skill building exercises that build upon the substantive materials being covered.


Economic Development in Indian Country: Tribal Business Law

Professor: Matthew Fletcher (Michigan State University College of Law)
Credits: 1
Dates: June 19 - 23
Times: 9:00 - 11:30 a.m.
Summer Housing: Application (if needed)

The successful development of vibrant and sustainable economies in Indian Country continues to present challenges for Indian tribes, their members 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.


Environmental Justice in Indian Country

Professor: Wenona Sengel (Michigan State University College of Law)
Credits: 1
Dates: June 26 - 30
Times: 9:00 - 11:30 a.m.
Summer Housing: Application (if needed)

Environmental justice for tribes can be defined as “the achievement of tribal authority to control and improve the reservation environment.” This course will focus on this topic by examining and assessing the legal tools employed by tribes to assert tribal sovereignty in order to limit and control environmental risks and to engage in efforts to improve the quality and abundance of resources in their surrounding environments. The course will use case studies to develop students’ understanding of these issues, including the resistance of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in Cannonball, North Dakota; the regulation of water quality by the Sokaogon Chippewa Community; the assertion of treaty rights by tribes in the Pacific Northwest to restore salmon runs; and the efforts of several Indian nations to protect the San Francisco Peaks from the use of sewage effluent in snowmaking by the Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort.


Criminal Jurisdiction in Indian Country

Professor: Kevin Washburn (University of New Mexico School of Law)
Credits: 1
Dates: July 10 - 14
Time: 9:00 - 11:30 a.m.
Summer Housing: Application (if needed)

This course provides information about crime and criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country. Topics include an overview of the laws affecting criminal jurisdiction, some of the unique criminal problems affecting Indian Country, traditional methods of resolving unacceptable behavioral problems within tribal communities, and the evolution of current responses to crime within Indian Country. Following completion of the course, students should have a basic understanding of the foundational principles relating to crime and law enforcement in Indian Country.


Good Native Governance

Professor: Angela Riley (UCLA)
Credits: 1
Dates: July 17 - 21
Time: 9:00 - 11:30 a.m.
Summer Housing: Application (if needed)

This course presents and analyzes questions regarding tribal governance that Indian Nations face: questions about membership, separation of powers, religious freedom, civil and criminal jurisdiction, cultural property and sacred sites, balancing cultural needs versus economic development, and others. Rather than approach these issues from a federal Indian law or federal government perspective; however, the course focuses on viewing all of these questions from the tribes' perspective.


Indigenous Cultural Preservation: Sacred Sites and Religious Freedom

Professor: Hillary Hoffmann (Vermont Law School)
Credits: 1
Dates: July 24 - 28
Time: 9:00 - 11:30 a.m.
Summer Housing: Application (if needed)

Course coverage will focus on the evolving judicial and legislative responses to the traditional and contemporary assertions by the American Indian peoples of their inherent right to the free exercise of their religious, cultural practices both on and off reservation, language preservation issues, educational impacts on tribal culture and how outside research impacts these rights. Particular emphasis will be given to the Indian peoples’ contemporary efforts to secure federal judicial and legislative protection of cultural practices.


Indian Child Welfare Act and Indian Civil Rights

Professor: Stephen Pevar (ACLU/NYU)
Credits: 1
Dates: July 31 - August 4
Time: 9:00 - 11:30 a.m.
Summer Housing: Not Available

This course looks at past federal policies which resulted in the removal of Indian children from their families and led to Congress passing the Indian Child Welfare Act. The course discusses the legal requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act, various aspects of working with Indian families, potential conflicts with state and other federal laws, and the difficulties in getting compliance with the Act. The course will also delve into the rights that individual Indians have vis-a-vis themselves and their tribal governments under the Indian Civil Rights Act.


Taxation and Finance in Indian Country

Professor:Rob Roy Smith (Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, LLP - Seattle, WA)
Credits: 1
Dates: August 7 - 11
Time: 9:00 - 11:30 a.m.
Summer Housing: Not Available

The purpose of this course is to provide an introduction to tax and finance law as it applies in Indian Country. Taxation and finance in Indian Country present unique and complicated problems that often turn on the status of land and individuals involved in a matter. This course will explore general principles and historical background of taxation in Indian Country as well as the role of federal, state, and tribal taxation authority within Indian Country. The course will also present issues of economic development, corporate/business organization, and financing within Indian Country.