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Past Events

· 2013-2014

· Prior School Years


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 Statesí 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 Schoolís 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 Schoolís 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 Cloudís 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 IRAís 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 Courtís recent Carcieri and Patchak decisions. During this event, Colin Cloud Hampson, an Indian rights lawyer, will reflect on Dr. Roe Cloudís 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 firmís San Diego, California office. He joined the firm in 1994 and is engaged in all areas of the firmís 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.

Prior School Years

Lunch Talk With Professor Bethany Berger, YLS Ď96

In the fall, as part of the Alliance for Diversityís Perspectives lecture series, we invited Bethany Berger, a Yale Law alumna and professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law, to speak. Professor Bergerís talk was entitled Equality Conflicts Within Federal Indian Law: From Global Warming to the Violence Against Women Act.† She discussed efforts for tribes to gain jurisdiction in the Violence Against Women Act, the Kivalina Tribeís efforts to win compensation for the drowning of their native village in Alaska due to climate change, a ski resortís desecration of the Sacred San Francisco Peaks, and treaty fishing disputes.

Coffee Chat with Susan Casey-Lefkowitz of NRDC

On April 8, 2013, NALSA co-sponsored with the Yale Environmental Law Association a coffee chat with Susan Casey-Lefkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council. She spoke about her career in domestic and international environmental law and her efforts to stop the Tarsands and Keystone XL Pipeline, both of which may have devastating consequences for Canadian and American tribes.

Screening of Climate Change Litigation Documentary

On April 17, 2013, NALSA and the Yale Environmental Law Association co-sponsored a screening of the TRUST Films documentary series about youth and climate change. These short films tell the story of youth, including American Indians, who are brining legal challenges to defend their right to a healthy atmosphere and a stable climate. Kelly Matheson, the director, was present to discuss the films after the screening.

November 14, 2011

Navajo Nation Supreme Court Comes to YLS!

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