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Federal Laws

This page contains general background information on how federal laws are codified, with highlights and commentaries on specific chapters of the United States Code which contains federal laws effecting Indian Nations.

Federal laws are laws passed by the United States Congress and signed by the President. When a federal law is enacted, it is generally given a Public Law number (i.e.: P.L. 101-630 indicating the 630th Public Law enacted by the 101st Congress). The law is initially printed chronologically in the U.S. Statutes at Large, but it is eventually organized by subject matter (or codified) in the United States Code. There are 50 titles in the United States Code (U.S.C.), but most Indian laws are included in Title 25 of the United States Code.

TLOA Tribal Justice Plan: An Overview & Update on Implementation

PowerPoint Slides from webinar that aired live on September 19, 2012, 3:00—4:30 pm ET.

This is the second webinar in a series sponsored by components within the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of the Interior. See the attached flyer for more information on the webinar series or visit

We have now posted the entire text of Public Law (P.L.) 280.

United States Code - Title 25 (Indians)

The following chapters of  Title 25 - Indians of the United States Code are of particular concern to Tribal Courts.

Chapter 14 - Indian Self-Determination Act (Public Law 93-638) as Codified and Amended contains the Indian Self-Determination Act (which authorized the process now popularly known as "638" contracting) as codified (organized by subject matter in Title 25 of the United States Code) and amended. Please note that this section of Title 25 also includes the more recent laws concerning Self-Governance.

Chapter 15 - Constitutional Rights of Indians. The Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA) has been amended twice since it was first enacted in 1968. It was amended first in 1986 to increase the tribal court sentencing limitation from $500 and/or 6 months in jail per offense to 1 year and $5000 per offense. It was amended again in 1990-1991 to restore tribal court criminal jurisdiction over all Indians (the so-called Congressional Duro-fix).

Chapter 21 - Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA). The constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act was strongly upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Mississippi Choctaw v. Holyfield, 490 U.S. 30 (1989). There have been a series of efforts in recent years to Amend the ICWA.

Chapter 24 - Indian Land Consolidation (ILCA) was originally enacted in 1983, but it was substantially amended in 1984. The U.S. Supreme Court has twice overturned the escheat provision of the Act as a Fifth Amendment taking of property without just compensation. First, the Supreme Court overturned the original 1983 escheat provision in Hodel v. Irving, 481 U.S. 704 (1987). Then, the Supreme Court overturned the 1984 escheat provision in Babbitt, et al. v. Youpee, Sr., et al., 519 U.S. 234 (1997).

Public Law 106-462 Indian Land Consolidation Act Amendments (Text, PDF) 25 USC 2201. 
This Act amends the Indian Land Consolidation Act and attempts to reduce the fractionated ownership of Indian lands. It was introduced by Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell  (R-CO) on September 15, 1999 (see Press Release). The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held a Hearing on S.1586 on November 4, 1999.

Chapter 26 - Indian Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention. The Indian Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1986.

Chapter 29 - Indian Gaming Regulation. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) was enacted in 1988. The U.S. Supreme Court held in Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida, et al., 514 U.S. 1125 (1996), that under the U.S. Constitution's Indian commerce clause, the U.S. Congress does not have the power to abrogate the states' Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity from suit and that the Eleventh Amendment prevents Congress from authorizing suits in federal court by Indian tribes against states to enforce the provision in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) requiring states to negotiate in good faith.

Chapter 30 - Indian Law Enforcement Reform. The Indian Law Enforcement Reform Act of 1990.

Chapter 32 - Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) of 1990.

Chapter 34 - Indian Child Protection and Family Violence. The Indian Child Protection and Family Violence Prevention Act (P.L.101-630) of 1990. The provision of the Indian Child Protection and Family Violence Prevention Act which requires Reporting of Child Abuse in Indian country is codified in Title 18 (Crimes) of the United States Code (18 U.S.C., Section 1169) rather than Title 25 (Indians) because the reporting of child abuse section contains criminal penalties. Note that this Act authorizes $43 million in annual funding, but that Congress has only appropriated minimal funding under the Act since it became law in 1990.

Chapter 36 - Indian Employment, Training and Related Services. Public Law 102-477 (usually referred to simply as "477") is the Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Demonstration Act of 1992. It authorizes tribal governments to combine the federal funds which they receive under formula grant programs related to employment or the world of work under a single plan, a single budget and a single reporting system.

Chapter 38 - Indian Tribal Justice Act. The Indian Tribal Justice Act (ITJA)  was enacted in December 1993, but Congress has yet to appropriate any of the $58.4 million per year in tribal court funding authorized under the Act.

Public Law 106-559 Indian Tribal Justice and Legal Assistance Act (Text, PDF
25 USC 3651. This Act is designed to provide technical and legal assistance to tribal justice systems and members of Indian tribes by authorizing the Department of Justice to use appropriated funds to (1) award grants to national and regional tribal court membership organizations to provide training and technical assistance for tribal justice systems and (2) award grants to non-profit legal services providers to provide civil and criminal legal assistance to tribal members or tribal justice systems. S.1508 was introduced by Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) on August 5, 1999. The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held a Hearing on S.1508 on September 29, 1999. The Committee on Indian Affairs marked-up the bill on October 13, 1999 - It was ordered to be reported favorably with an amendment in the nature of a substitute. The amendment added two additional provisions to S.1508. First, Section 201 was added which formally authorized the Justice Department's Indian Tribal Courts Fund for fiscal years 2000 through 2004. Second, Section 202 was added to re-authorize the Indian Tribal Justice Act for seven additional years (fiscal years 2000 through 2007). S.1508 was reported to the full Senate on November 8, 1999 (Senate Report 106-219). S.1508 (as amended) Passed the Full Senate by unanimous consent on November 19,1999 and was sent to the U.S. House. A Companion Bill (H.R. 3333) was introduced in the House on November 10, 1999 by Representative Tom Udall (D-NM) and Representative George Miller (D-CA). S.1508 was amended in the House (see House Report 106-819, Part I) by Representative Don Young (R-AK) to include Title III (Technical Amendments to Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act) and Title IV (National Leadership Symposium for American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Native Hawaiian Youth).

Criminal Provisions

Chapter 53 - Indians. United States Code Title 18, Part I, Crimes.

Indian Housing Laws

Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 Adobe Acrobat Reader is Required to View this File. (NAHASDA) is a federal law which reorganized and simplified HUD's system of housing assistance to Native Americans by eliminating several separate HUD programs and replacing them with a single block grant program made directly to tribes. There are several NAHASDA sites on Code Talk, including NAHASDA-Indian Housing Plan Homepage and NAHASDA Guidance and Bulletins. There are also extensive NAHASDA resources on the National American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC) site, including NAHASDA itself.

NAHASDA Amendments were included in both Public Law 106-568 - the Omnibus Indian Advancement Act (Text, PDF) and Public Law 106-569 - the American Homeownership and Economic Opportunity Act of 2000 (Text, PDF). These NAHASDA amendments provide technical amendments to the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 (NAHASDA).

Welfare Assistance Laws

In 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) reformed the nation's laws for providing welfare assistance. This law replaced the Assistance to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program with the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) that changed the nature and provision of federal welfare benefits to public assistance recipients. Tribal governments now have the option of assuming the responsibility for providing benefits under the TANF program for their own service areas. As of July 1, 1998, twelve (12) tribes have been approved by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to operate their own TANF programs.

The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) of the Department of Labor has published the Interim Final Rule to implement the provisions of the Indian and Native American Welfare-to-Work Program (hereinafter referred to as "INA WtW") authorized under section 412(a)(3) of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), as amended by Public Law 104-193, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Reconciliation Act of 1996, and by title V, section 5001(c) of Public Law 105-33, The Balanced Budget Act of 1997.

Federal Regulations

Regulations issued by executive branch agencies are available in the Code of Federal Regulations. Regulations that are proposed or recently adopted may not yet be listed in the Code of Federal Regulations but may be found in the Federal Register.

General Resources on Federal Indian Law

Federal Indian Law materials can be found at the Indian Law Materials section from Cornell Law School and the Native American Treaties and Information site from the University of Colorado.

LEGI\X Company is an advocacy and lobbing group with up to date news on Housing, Appropriations& Budget, Environment, Gaming, Political & Legislative, Social & General, Tax & Economic Development, How to Contact Congress, and Links to Important Sites.

General Resources on Federal Law

The Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School provides hypertext versions of the full U.S. Code, U.S. Constitution, Code of Federal Regulations, Federal Rules of Evidence and Civil Procedure, liibulletin-ny, the American Legal Ethics Library, and other important legal materials -- Federal, State, Foreign and International. It holds the Legal Information Institute's E-mail Address Directory of Faculty and Staff at U.S. Law Schools as well as contact information on Other People and Organizations in the field of law. It is host to the Cornell Law Review, and offers information about Cornell Law School and the Cornell Law Library.

For an authoritative guide on learning basic legal citation, see Introduction to Basic Legal Citation (2000-2001 ed.) by Peter W. Martin.


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