TU’s College of Law is a leading research center for Native American law and history. The Native American Law Center is enhanced by Tulsa’s proximity to 35 major tribal headquarters, lying within the original borders of the Muscogee Creek Nation.
Established as a center in 2000, Native American Law Center builds on the certificate program established in 1990. The Center’s mission is to provide resources for the study and teaching of legal issues concerning Indian tribes and other indigenous peoples worldwide. TU continues to be at the forefront of the field with its LLM in American Indian and Indigenous Law.
The University of Tulsa College of Law was the first law school to offer a formal Indian Law certificate program, a concentrated course of study that immerses students in the legal tribal issues. The certificate is undertaken as part of a JD degree.
Students enjoy small classes, considerable student-faculty interaction, and extensive opportunities to work with nearby tribal governments. The active chapter of Native American Law Students Association (NALSA) participates in the national NALSA moot court competition, is involved in community activities and travels to the Federal Bar Association’s Indian Law Conference, which also includes a job fair and the National NALSA meeting.
Many TU Law graduates specialize in the practice of Indian law, working for tribal governments, tribal courts, federal agencies, law firms, and as sole practitioners.
TU Law’s unmatched resources include:
- Specialized library collection in Indian and indigenous law
- Full-time professors who are experts in Indian law
- LLM in American Indian and Indigenous Law
- Gilcrease Museum (managed by TU), a nationally renowned museum of Native American art and artifacts, providing academic and research opportunities
- Judicial Internship with Courts of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation
- Opportunities to work with nearby tribal governments
- Indian law courses
- Jess Green Scholarship
- Utsey Family Scholarship
TU’s College of Law has an active Native American Law Students’ Association (NALSA), which is affiliated with the National NALSA. Members are active in community programs, meet regularly for social activities, and attend the Federal Bar Association’s annual Indian Law Conference. The FBA’s annual conference includes the annual National NALSA meeting, as well as a job fair and networking opportunities.
Moot Court Competition
TU NALSA students also participate in an intramural Native American Law Moot Court competition. Winners of that competition represent TU at the National Native American Law Moot Court Competition, which is sponsored by National NALSA. The TU Law intramural competition, from which the teams for the national competition are chosen, is open to all law students.
TU boasts faculty members with nationally recognized expertise in Indian law. The Center faculty publish and speak regularly in their areas of specialization, and were involved in the revision of Felix S. Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law, the premier treatise in the field.
Professor of Law
Co-Director, Native American Law Center
Professor Royster is a nationally recognized expert in the areas of Indian environmental law, water law and mineral development. She co-authored the leading textbook on Native American natural resources law and is published extensively on a variety of Indian law topics. In addition to her role as a contributing author of Felix S. Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law, she also serves on the editorial board for the treatise. Her article in the Tulsa Law Review entitled Mineral Development in Indian Country: The Evolution of Tribal Control Over Mineral Resources was cited by Justice Souter in his dissent in the 2003 US Supreme Court case of United States v. Navajo Nation.
Vicki J. Limas
Professor of Law
Co-Director, Native American Law Center
Professor Vicki Limas is the leading national expert on labor and employment law in Indian country. She has published articles on the juxtaposition of tribal sovereign rights and individual civil rights in suits by employees and on the applicability of federal labor and employment laws to Indian nations. She is a contributing author to the 2005 Revisions of Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law. Professor Limas is an adjunct settlement judge in the US District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma and an arbitrator for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
Gary D. Allison, Professor of Law
Garrick Bailey, Professor of Anthropology
Marianne Blair, Professor of Law
John Coward, Professor and Chair of the Communication Department
Janet K. Levit, Professor of Law
Marla E. Mansfield, Professor of Law, Emerita
James P. Ronda, H. G. Barnard Chair in Western American History, Emeritus
Indian law is an integrated and integral part of TU’s library collections, which include the Mabee Legal Information Center (MLIC) and the McFarlin Library. Together, these libraries provide virtually any materials a student needs to write and study in the field. The MLIC features a strong collection of works related to American Indian and Indigenous Peoples law. The collection contains both primary and secondary works, including treaties, US government documents, tribal codes and tribal court decisions. The collection also features a wealth of treatises exploring both domestic and international approaches to Indian law issues.
The importance of Indian law at TU is illustrated by the MLIC’s decision to include a special room devoted to Native American law, which both houses many of the MLIC’s Indian law resources and serves as a meeting and study area for students. The main Indian law collection is located in an area immediately adjacent to the Native American law room in the Indigenous Peoples Law Collection.
In addition to the materials held at the MLIC, law students also have access to McFarlin, the main university library, which is a short three-minute walk from the law school. McFarlin is a major center of scholarly resources for the systematic study of Indian law, history and policy.
With institutional roots stemming from the Presbyterian School for Indian Girls, The University of Tulsa honors its historic commitment to Indian scholarship by housing the Alice Robertson collection (which includes the personal papers of Samuel Worcester, the Osage Allotment Cards and the Wounded Knee Papers of Kent Frizzell). McFarlin’s collection also contains many documents related to the Indian Claims Commission, including a variety of indices and digests, the papers of Commissioner Brantley Blue and the personal papers of John T. Vance. The library also holds the J.B. Milam Library of Cherokee History, which consists of some 2,000 titles. It includes tribal and US government documents, almost all books written about the Cherokees before 1950, books printed in Cherokee and a number of important manuscripts.
The College of Law dedicates substantial resources to teaching Indian law and supporting the Indian legal community. As a private school not operationally accountable to any state legislature, the College is uniquely positioned to lead the Worcester Sovereignty Project (WSP), designed to protect and advance tribal sovereignty.
The foundational principles of Native American tribal sovereignty established in Worcester v. Georgia, a landmark 1833 U.S. Supreme Court case, have been steadily eroded in the courts in recent years. Since 1985, Indian Nations lost more than 80 percent of tribal sovereignty cases.
Given current and emerging threats to tribal sovereignty, it is clear that the programs comprising the University of Tulsa College of Law’s proposed Worcester Sovereignty Project are essential for training an increasing number of tribal sovereignty advocates and providing federally recognized Indian Nations with legal assistance in defending and exercising their sovereignty rights.
The five proposed components of the project are:
- Scholarship Program
- Field Studies Program
- Law Clinic
- Defense Partners Program
- Policy Review Center
Enabling more students to take advantage of its Native American and Indigenous Law programs is the highest Worcester Sovereignty Project priority. Need-based scholarships will create more opportunities for potential advocates in the TU College of Law’s Native American Law J.D. certificate program and its LL.M. program in American Indian and Indigenous Law.
Funds provided to establish a J.D. scholarship endowment fund and an L.L.M scholarships endowment fund will be critically important in educating the tribal sovereignty defenders of tomorrow.
Field Studies Program
The Field Studies Program provides students specializing in Native American and Indigenous Peoples Law with experiential learning opportunities to earn 2 to 12 hours of academic credit hours gaining practice experience under the supervision of an attorney.
Externs do on-site, unpaid externships with federally recognized Indian Nations, other Indigenous People, law firms, government organizations and other organizations that provide services to Indian Nations or other Indigenous Peoples at home and abroad.
A field supervisor and a TU Law academic supervisor supervise Worcester externs. Externs get the opportunity to develop within several broad practice competencies (knowledge of Native American and Indigenous Peoples Law, marshaling legal information, critical legal analysis, effective legal communications, and practice legal skills) and professionalism competencies (professionalism duties, effective client service, leadership skills, management skills, and business development techniques).
The field supervisor provides Worcester externs with a high degree of mentoring, competency development opportunities, effective performance feedback and overall performance assessment.
The academic supervisor monitors the performances of Worcester externs and their field supervisors; assigns externs tasks to help them reflect critically on their externship experiences with respect to such topics as legal ethics, professionalism values, social justice, differences among legal workplaces, the role of lawyers in the community, and potential career choices; conducts a 14-hour non-credit course designed to engage the externs in discussions about these topics; and assigns final grades.
The mission of the clinic will be to provide high-quality clinical legal education to students while also helping tribal governments and other Indigenous leaders who seek legal assistance concerning sovereignty issues.
Defense Partners Program
For work that cannot be handled by the Law Clinic, the College of Law partners with Native American advocacy organizations. These partnerships will involve cooperative agreements for work referrals and the placement of externs. Partnerships could eventually evolve to the point where the partner might open a branch office at TU if feasible.
Policy Review Center
To further augment the work of the Worcester Sovereignty Clinic, the Policy Review Center operates as a non-profit research and public outreach arm of the Worcester Sovereignty Project. The Policy Review Center consists of a group of scholars and professionals with expertise in tribal sovereignty and indigenous rights. Indian Nations, other Indigenous Peoples, and relevant organizations and entities may refer complicated sovereignty policy issues to the center for policy analysis and formulation of issue papers, policy prescriptions and legislative strategies