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Past Events


Tribal Nations and the Violence Against Women Act
April 1, 2015

This panel discussed the complicated federal Indian law issues explored in Sliver of a Full Moon, specifically how the legal system has facilitated an epidemic of violence against Native women and how new provisions in the 2013 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization aim to address the problem.


  • Judge Fletcher, US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit
  • Deborah Parker (Tulalip/Yaqui), former Vice Chairwoman, Tulalip Tribes
  • Lisa Brunner (White Earth Ojibwe), Survivor and Program Specialist, National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center
  • Mary Kathryn Nagle (Cherokee), Lawyer/Playwright
  • Professor Gerald Torres – Moderator

Sixty percent of Native women are assaulted, one third are raped, and thirty-nine percent experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. The majority of the perpetrators of violence against Native women are non-Indian. In 1978, the Supreme Court declared in Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe that Native nations could no longer exercise jurisdiction over non-Indians who commit crimes on tribal lands. Since then, tribal governments have been forced to rely on distant federal—-and in some cases, state-—officials to investigate and prosecute misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence committed by non-Indians against Native women. However, outside law enforcement has proven ineffective in addressing misdemeanor level reservation-based domestic violence. The Justice Department has found that when non-Indian cases of domestic violence go uninvestigated and unpunished, offenders’ violence escalates. VAWA 2013 is the first and only statute to reverse the Supreme Court’s rejection of tribal courts’ criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians. The new law restores the inherent sovereignty of tribal governments to investigate and prosecute all crimes of domestic and dating violence regardless of the race of the offender.

Sliver of a Full Moon: A Nationally Acclaimed Play about VAWA's Restoration of Tribal Sovereignty to Protect Native Women
March 31, 2015

American Indian and Alaska Native women face proportionally higher levels of violence than any other group of women in the United States. Sliver of a Full Moon is a nationally acclaimed play about the grassroots movement to tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Native perpetrators of domestic violence on tribal lands in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. While celebrating this historic victory, Sliver of a Full Moon also emphasizes that this solution is narrow. Consequently the play asks: what will it take to restore the jurisdiction of all tribes to protect the lives of all Native women?

Recording: Watch a recording of the play here:

Learn more about VAWA and Sliver of a Full Moon here:

News Coverage:

Lunch with James Anaya, Former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
March 3, 2015

James Anaya is a Regents Professor and the James J. Lenoir Professor of Human Rights Law and Policy at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law (USA), where he teaches and writes in the areas of international human rights, constitutional law, and issues concerning indigenous peoples. He served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples from 2008 to 2014. Among his numerous publications is his acclaimed book, Indigenous Peoples in International Law (Oxford Univ. Press, 1996, 2d. ed. 2004).

Climate Change and Native Nations: The Search for Legal Remedies
February 28, 2015

Speaker: Elizabeth Kronk Warner (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians), Associate Professor of Law and Director, Tribal Law & Government Center, University of Kansas School of Law

The effects of climate change are continuing to increase and are disproportionately affecting tribal communities. Some Native nations have taken action to mitigate the effects of and adapt to climate change to protect their natural resources, homelands, infrastructure, and food sources. This workshop will address the following questions: What is the current state of climate policy within Native communities? What are Indian Country’s best resiliency practices? What opportunities and challenges exist in using various international and domestic legal tools to seek redress?

This panel was part of Yale Law School’s 2015 New Directions in Environmental Law Conference. To learn more about the conference, please visit: 

Native Peacemaking: A Traditional Approach to Conflict Resolution
February 20, 2015

Peacemaking is a traditional Native approach to resolving conflict that focuses on healing and restoration rather than punishment. Although peacemaking varies across tribes, it generally brings together the disputants, along with family members, friends, and other members of the community to speak about how the event, crime, or crisis affected each person. Panelists will discuss the goals of peacemaking and how tribal courts are using this strategy to tackle Indian justice issues.


  • Shawn Watts (Cherokee), Associate Director, Edson Queiroz Foundation Mediation Program, and Lecturer in Law, Columbia Law School
  • Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel (Mohegan), Tribal Historian and Medicine Woman, Mohegan Tribe
  • Rita Gilman (Mohegan), Peacemaker, Mohegan Tribe

This panel was part of Yale Law School's 2015 Rebellious Lawyering Conference. To learn more about the conference, please visit:

"Tribal Nations and the Obama Administration": 
A Conversation with Jodi Gillette, Special Assistant to the President for Native American Affairs

Monday, January 26, 2015

Jodi Gillette (Standing Rock Sioux) is Special Assistant to the President for Native American Affairs on the Domestic Policy Council at the White House. She spoke about her public service career, including her path to the White House; the successes and challenges of the Obama Administration’s significant progress in advancing the nation-to-nation relationship with tribal nations; and why it’s important all lawyers in any field to include Native communities in their work.

Native Amicus Briefing Project Introductory Session & Training
February 11, 2015

The Native Amicus Briefing Project is an initiative that identifies federal and tribal court cases in which Indian Country has a significant stake and submits amicus briefs to raise awareness and understanding of Indian law and policy. The Project’s executive director visited YLS to train students on getting involved.

State of Indian Nations Viewing Session
January 22, 2015

NALSA gathered with our friends from the wider Yale Native community to watch the President of the National Congress of American Indians deliver the 2015 State of Indian Nations address. Each year, the President of the National Congress of American Indians presents the State of Indian Nations address to members of Congress, government officials, tribal leaders and citizens, and the American public. Delivered during the week that the President of the United States delivers the State of the Union, the State of Indian Nations is a speech that shares the positive and future-oriented vision of tribal nations. The speech outlines the goals of tribal leaders, the opportunities for success and advancement of Native peoples, and priorities to advance our nation-to-nation relationship with the United States.

"The UN and Human Rights: Why US Engagement Matters"
Keith Harper, US Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council

November 19, 2014

A citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Ambassador Harper is the first member of a federally recognized tribe to be a US ambassador. He addressed the work of the United States before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, with an emphasis on how the Council’s work advances human rights around the world. In particular, he will discuss the tools at the disposal at the Council, including the ability to shine a light on the greatest violators of human rights. He addressed United States priorities and his personal priorities, including protection of the rights of women, LGBT persons, and indigenous peoples, as well as a continuing focus of appointing experts to evaluate particularly problematic human rights situations in various countries.

Coffee Chat with Sam Deloria from the American Indian Law Center
November 13, 2014

Sam Deloria is the Director of the American Indian Graduate Center and President of the Board of Directors of the American Indian Law Center. He served as Director of the American Indian Law Center for 35 years, beginning in 1972. Under Mr. Deloria’s direction, the AILC performed groundbreaking work in the analysis of federal Indian policy, including helping to define the role of tribes in the federal system. The AILC has also taken the lead in strengthening tribal government institutions. Mr. Deloria was the founder and first Secretary-General of the World Council of Indigenous People and, in 1976, was one of the founders of the Commission on State-Tribal Relations. He is also a member of the National Institutional Review Board for the protection of human subjects of research, established by the Indian Health Service. Mr. Deloria attended both undergraduate and law school at Yale University.

Beyond the Indian Commerce Clause
October 24, 2014

Author: Gregory Ablavsky, University of Pennsylvania Law School 

Federal exclusive and unqualified power over Indian affairs is the foundation of federal Indian law. In his concurrence in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, Justice Thomas drew on recent scholarship to argue that the doctrine of federal unqualified power is inconsistent with the Constitution’s original understanding. This interpretation would radically reshape federal law. The current Article argues, by contrast, that the Indian Commerce Clause was open-ended when written and so neither its text nor its drafting history can resolve the issue of federal authority over Indian affairs. The Article instead looks beyond the Clause and originalist approaches to constitutional history to reconstruct the origins of the federal Indian affairs power. 

This event is a part of the Yale Law Journal’s “Contemporary Legal Scholarship” reading group.

Inaugural Alumni Awards Dinner
October 23, 2014

NALSA hosted its very first Alumni Awards Dinner on October 23, 2014. We were proud to honor Kevin Washburn (Chickasaw) '93, currently serving as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, for his extraordinary contributions to Native nations and the Indian law field.

"Tribal Self-Governance in the 21st Century"
Kevin Washburn ’93, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs

October 23, 2014

In the 1970s, Congress passed a series of landmark laws instituting policies of self-determination for American Indian tribal nations. These laws authorized tribes to assume control over federal service programs and translated into extensive powers of tribal self-governance. An intuitive concept motivated this policy turnaround: that tribal governments could serve their citizens more effectively than paternalistic federal bureaucrats. As a result, today tribes successfully run their own courts, schools, colleges, hospitals, child welfare systems, and myriad other programs formerly managed by the federal government. Not only has self-determination dramatically improved the well-being of Native peoples over the past forty years, but it has also proven to be the only policy that has worked after more than a century of failed efforts. During this lunch talk, Kevin Washburn ’93, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior, will discuss a vision for strengthening tribal self-governance for generations to come.


Equality vs. Exceptionalism: The Role of Race in Federal Indian Law
April 5, 2014

Race has played a profound and complicated role in the United States’ legal and political treatment of Indians. On the one hand, the federal government has used American racial ideology and taxonomy to strip tribes of autonomy, resources, and humanity. On the other hand, the courts and Congress have also problematically conflated race and political status as a way of understanding and regulating tribes as political entities. This panel will explore how this unique history interacts with recent equal protection jurisprudence and has impacted the political position of tribes and Native people. How will the increasing illegitimacy of governmental racial classifications affect laws designed to preserve and advance tribal self-government and cultural survival? How can the tension between formal equality and the distinct status of Indian tribes be reconciled to secure Native rights and justice?


  • Kristen Carpenter, Associate Professor of Law and Co-Director, American Indian Law Program, University of Colorado Law School
  • Matthew Fletcher, Professor of Law and Director of the Indigenous Law & Policy Center, Michigan State University College of Law
  • Angela R. Riley, Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law; Director, UCLA American Indian Studies Center; and Co-Director, Native Nations Law and Policy Center
  • Gerald Torres, Bryant Smith Chair in Law, University of Texas at Austin School of Law

This panel was part of Yale Law School’s 2014 Critical Race Theory Conference. To learn more about the conference, please visit:

Environmental Law in Indian Country: Building Tribal Capacity
March 1, 2014

The past decade has seen a surge of interest in environmental law in Indian Country, from tribes exercising their authority to regulate environmental pollution on their reservations, to a Montana tribe recently negotiating a deal that will make them the first tribe to own and operate a hydroelectric dam. And it is becoming increasingly clear that tribal environmental and energy policy can have far-reaching regional impacts. This workshop will explore tribal capacity building in the context of environmental and energy law, as more and more tribal governments assert control over their natural resources and develop the capacity to implement environmental regulations under federal regulations like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Panelists will discuss the mechanisms for tribal capacity building in this area, the importance of these developments, and the arising jurisdictional questions.


  • Bethany Berger, Thomas F. Gallivan, Jr. Professor of Real Property Law, UConn School of Law
  • Jordan Thompson, Associate General Counsel, Energy Keepers, Inc., Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes

This panel was part of Yale Law School’s 2014 New Directions in Environmental Law Conference. To learn more about the conference, please visit:

Deconstructing the "Baby Veronica" Case: Implications for the Future of the Indian Child Welfare Act
February 21, 2014

In June 2013, the Supreme Court decided Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, a widely publicized case involving the adoption of a Cherokee child by non-Natives over the objections of her Cherokee father. At the heart of the controversy was the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law designed to protect the best interests of Native children and promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families. This panel will explore the history behind this landmark law, the current landscape of Indian child welfare, and the implications of the "Baby Veronica" decision for the future placement of Native children. Additionally, panelists will discuss how their organizations collaborated with both tribal and non-tribal stakeholders to develop legal, media, and other advocacy strategies for the case as part of the Tribal Supreme Court Project.


  • Jacqueline Pata, Executive Director, National Congress of American Indians
  • Joel West Williams, Staff Attorney, Native American Rights Fund
  • Claire Chung, JD Candidate 2014, Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic, Yale Law School
  • Moderator: Sparky Abraham, JD Candidate 2014, Yale Law School

This panel was part of Yale Law School's 2014 Rebellious Lawyering Conference. To learn more about the conference, please visit:

Book Discussion: The Round House by Louise Erdrich
February 13, 2014

NALSA joined with Professor Ian Ayres to host a group discussion on The Round House, the 2012 novel by Louise Erdrich that deals extensively with issues of criminal justice in Indian Country. Through the stories of its characters, the novel highlights the intertwining systems of federal Indian law, tribal law, and state law, while also painting a vivid picture of life on an Indian reservation in North Dakota.

2014 State of Indian Nations Address - Viewing Party
January 30, 2014

Each year, the President of the National Congress of American Indians presents the State of Indian Nations address to members of Congress, government officials, tribal leaders and citizens, and the American public. The speech outlines the goals of tribal leaders, the opportunities for success and advancement of Native peoples, and priorities to advance our nation-to-nation relationship with the United States. The speech is delivered to a live studio audience in Washington, DC and broadcast across the nation and around the globe to policymakers, citizens, and students.

Reclaiming the Past: Indian Tribes & the Law of Cultural Repatriation
November 11, 2013

NALSA hosted a panel discussion of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and other issues surrounding cultural repatriation.


  • Honor Keeler (Cherokee), Wesleyan University's repatriation coordinator
  • Elizabeth James-Perry (Aquinnah Wampanoag), her tribe's Senior Cultural Resources Manager
  • Jaime LaVallee (Muskeg Lake Creek), the former notice coordinator of the national NAGPRA program at the National Park Service

The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934: Henry Roe Cloud’s Vision for Indian Policy and Current Challenges to Tribal Self-Determination
November 8, 2013

The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (IRA) initiated a new era in federal-tribal relations by reversing the allotment of Indian lands and promoting tribal self-government. Henry Roe Cloud, Yale's first Native American graduate, played a prominent role in the IRA’s development as a Merriam Report staff member and Bureau of Indian Affairs official. Although tribal reaction to the IRA has been mixed, in recent years Indian Country has rallied to support Section 5, which authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for tribes. While tribes have relied on this section to help slow the terrible losses of land resulting from allotment and pursue economic development and self-determination, it has been challenged in the courts, particularly in the Supreme Court’s recent Carcieri and Patchak decisions. During this event, Colin Cloud Hampson, an Indian rights lawyer, will reflect on Dr. Roe Cloud’s vision for Indian self-government in light of modern debates about tribal self-determination and economic development.

Colin Cloud Hampson, a descendent of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and the White Earth Band of Chippewa, is a partner in the firm Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson and Perry, LLP, a national Native American rights firm. He manages the firm’s San Diego, California office. He joined the firm in 1994 and is engaged in all areas of the firm’s Indian law practice, including Indian gaming, jurisdiction, economic development, tax, water, self-determination, and environmental law. Mr. Hampson graduated with distinction from Stanford Law School in 1994.  Mr. Hampson also received a Master of Arts degree in International Policy Studies and a Bachelor of Arts degree in American History from Stanford University in 1991.

NALSA Movie Night: Screening of Miss Navajo Documentary
November 7, 2013

NALSA hosted a screening of Miss Navajo, a documentary about Navajo life that follows the lives and families of the contestants that participate in the Miss Navajo cultural pageant.

November 14, 2011

Navajo Nation Supreme Court Comes to YLS!

The YLS community had the opportunity to host the Navajo Nation Supreme Court