The subject matter of this Restatement predates the birth of our nation. Some of the most important early decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, including ones authored by Chief Justice John Marshall, deal with the Law of American Indians. And tribes, along with the federal government and the states, are one of the three categories of sovereigns in the United States. (Excerpted from the Forward of Tentative Draft No. 1 by ALI Director Richard L. Revesz)

This field is so informed by history, probably more than any other in some ways. … Certainly in the field of Indian affairs, a lot of damage has been done in the past, and there are a lot of challenges for the future just to get things right from the perspective of those of us who believe that tribes should have a voice in this society, and that there are good rules to help bolster that voice. (Excerpted from an interview with Associate Reporter Kaighn Smith)

A significant portion of Chapter 1 (Federal-Tribal Relationships) has been approved by ALI’s membership. This chapter contains General Terms, Federal–Tribal Relationship, American Indian Treaty Law, Federal Legislation, and Breach of Trust Claims.

Additional planned chapters:

  • Chapter 2 will focus on the powers of Indian tribes, including the power to determine what form of government tribes will develop, to determine the criteria for membership in the tribe, and also to legislate with respect to a wide variety of matters like taxation.
  • Chapter 3 will address tribal-state relations.
  • Chapter 4 is going to address two aspects of economic development in Indian country; tribes as economic actors, and tribes as economic regulators.
  • Chapter 5 will address an issue that is at the forefront in Indian law policy right now – Indian country criminal jurisdiction.

Project Reporters

Matthew L.M. Fletcher

Reporter, American Indian Law Restatement

Matthew L.M. Fletcher is a Professor of Law and Director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University College of Law. He is a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. He sits as the Chief Justice of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians Supreme Court and also sits as an appellate judge for the Grand Traverse Band, the Hoopa Valley Tribe, the Lower Elwha Tribe, the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Indians, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, and the Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska.

Wenona T. Singel

Associate Reporter, American Indian Law Restatement

Wenona T. Singel is an Associate Professor of and the Associate Director of the Indigenous Law & Policy Center at Michigan State University College of Law. She is a citizen of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, and serves as their Chief Appellate Justice.

Kaighn Smith, Jr.

Associate Reporter, American Indian Law Restatement

Kaighn Smith, Jr., leads Drummond Woodsum’s nationwide Indian Law Practice Group. He has represented Indian nations and their enterprises for more than 25 years in cases that focus on jurisdiction and sovereignty disputes, labor and employment relations, complex transactional disputes, environmental matters, and fishing and water rights.