Native American Law Center

Our Mission and Objectives

The Native American Law Center promotes the development of Indian law, and encourages Native Americans, and others with an interest in Indian law, to attend law school. We also act as a resource to Indian tribes, other governments and individuals in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and across the country. In addition to a challenging and prestigious academic program, we are part of an extensive network of scholars, practitioners and students dedicated to the field of Indian law.

Washington is home to 29 tribes – many located in close proximity to the city of Seattle. We offer several courses in Indian law topics, encourage internships related to Indian law and environmental law and also offer the chance to work closely with faculty on matters selected by students. Our Tribal Court Public Defender Clinic puts student in tribal court under the supervision of a seasoned faculty member as defense counsel for tribal members. It is the only clinic of its kind in the country.

Recognizing the Needs of Many Peoples

The University of Washington School of Law is committed to creating a Native American Law Center that is a premier center for excellence in Indian law. Through coursework, scholarship and research, training and direct legal representation, the Native American Law Center at the University of Washington seeks to promote a better understanding of Indian law and policy in order to facilitate legal and institutional improvements among tribal, state and federal governments. To meet our mission, our objectives are:

  • Strengthening tribal institutions and their cooperative relations with local, state and federal government
  • Supporting economic growth in Indian country
  • Promoting new institutions for intergovernmental cooperation
  • Advocating collaborative relationships to deal with environmental problems
  • Facilitating resolution of tribal/state & local conflicts
  • Clarifying Indian country status and governance
  • Realizing Alaska Native priority subsistence rights
  • Achieving fulfillment of Indian treaty Fishing and Hunting rights
  • Providing  consultation to tribal institutions, students and local and federal governments on contemporary Indian issues

Our Founder's Vision and Legacy

Ralph JohnsonThe Native American Law Center was founded by the School of Law to carry on and expand the work of Professor Ralph W. Johnson. For forty-four years, Professor Johnson taught at the UW Law School and provided direct assistance to the tribes in Washington State and across the nation. Professor Johnson's scholarly work in the field of Indian Law is nationally known, his writings have been cited more than 300 times by the United States Supreme Court as well as by lower federal and state court judges. Professor Johnson created this Native American Law Center to carry on his life's work.

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