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The Law Library of Congress has recently created the Indigenous Law Portal. This portal provides convenient access to current sources of law directly from indigenous communities themselves and historical sources of tribal law from the collections of the Library of Congress. “Mapping American Indian Constitutions and Legal Materials” provides access to American Indian law.

Massachusetts material linked from the portal include the websites for the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribal Council, Inc. and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) of Massachusetts. Tribal law links include the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Laws and the Constitution of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah).

“United States law treats Indian tribes as ‘domestic, dependent nations.’ They are denominated domestic because they are within the United States and dependent because they are subject to federal power. They are nations because they exercise sovereign powers over people, property, and events within their borders. As Chief Justice John Marshall observed in [Cherokee Nation v. Georgia] 1831: ‘The condition of the Indians in relation to the United States is perhaps unlike that of any other two people in existence. . . marked by peculiar and cardinal distinctions which exist nowhere else. .

First, an Indian nation possesses in the first instance all of the powers of a sovereign state . . .

Second, the federal government has broad powers and responsibilities in Indian affairs. . .

Third, state authority in Indian affairs is limited.”

  • Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law, LexisNexis, 2005.

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