The Florida Bar

Indian and Native Populations

December 12, 2022

Native Peoples Law governs the Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Alaska Natives who live in the United States. Each tribe may create and enforce its own tribal law. The federal government issued several statutes and treaties that affect the provision of services to people on Native American reservations. Lawyers practice in this area help Native Americans find work or set up businesses with the people surrounding the reservation, or help the state enforce laws that apply to Native Americans. Some lawyers work within the tribes and help tribe members handle resolve their internal disputes or access government services to which they are entitled.

Laws relating to Indian and native populations often overlap with the following areas of law:

  • International Law: Because tribes are considered “sovereign governments” that live within the United States, federal laws that govern Native Americans are largely contained in treaties.
  • Municipal Law: Many tribes operate very similarly to cities on U.S. soil and must create ordinances for taxes, business licenses, police power, and other essentials.
  • Business Law: Many Native Americans wish to create businesses and market to people outside the reservation, and must set up their business according to applicable state and federal laws.
  • Land Use Law: The federal government sets aside land specifically for use by Native Americans.
  • Estate Planning: Native Americans are subject to different estate laws than other American citizens.

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or substitute for the advice of a lawyer.