American Indian Law Program

Larry DesJarlais Design

At Colorado Law, we believe that American Indians deserve the very best lawyers and that we have an obligation to train them. Our American Indian Law Program faculty, including the nation’s top scholars and practitioners in the field, offers a full slate of introductory and advanced classes in the field to prepare students for all aspects of Indian law practice, and we now have dozens of successful alumni practicing Indian law in tribal government, federal agencies, and at law firms. Colorado Law graduates are equally prepared to work on impact litigation, economic development, policy advocacy, individual legal services, and tribal governance in Indian law. Our American Indian Law Program also appeals to many students with broader practice interests in natural resources, public lands, property, museum and art law, technology, entrepreneurship, family law, and beyond. Indeed, because American Indian law raises questions regarding the rule of law and legal pluralism, the contours of sovereignty and governance, cross-cultural representation and minority rights, and interdisciplinary study and practice, it offers important intellectual development opportunities for all Colorado Law students.

Drawing from the legacy of some of our earliest alumni, including the famous legal advocate and intellectual Vine Deloria ’70, and our relationship with the Native American Rights Fund, founded by the late Dean David Getches, our approach to American Indian law is deeply grounded in Indian Country. The American Indian Law Program at Colorado Law provides students with opportunities to gain practical experience and serve Indian people and tribes through the American Indian Law Clinic; externships at NARF, the Ute tribes, and Denver Indian Center; and clerkship opportunities at law firms and tribal courts. In conjunction with the Colorado Indian Bar Association and other sponsors, we have a new annual Speaker Series and Conference, allowing Colorado Law to serve as the region’s convening institution for tribal leaders, advocates, scholars and community members to address the most pressing challenges in Indian law and policy.

What distinguishes Colorado Law from other law schools is our unparalleled history and commitment to American Indian law, our top notch-faculty of five full-time professors in the field, and our relationships with tribes and tribal organizations, all of which provide students with a comprehensive, supportive, and rigorous academic experience. Students enjoy a very close relationship with our American Indian Law faculty who mentor students through research and scholarship opportunities, pro bono work, and a fellowship with the American Indian Law Program. Our Native American Law Students Association (NALSA) is extremely active, with recent top finishes at the National NALSA Moot Court Competition, an annual Fall Harvest Feast, and other educational and social events throughout the year. In all of these ways, American Indian Law is thriving at Colorado Law. We hope you will join us!

Certificate Program

Colorado Law  offers an American Indian Law Certificate demonstrating the completion of a  concentrated course of study in the legal issues facing America’s  Native peoples and American Indian tribes. This Certificate is attractive to  legal, tribal, and governmental employers, as well as employers seeking to do  business with tribes and tribal members.

Certificate requirements include: 1) at least 92 credit hours (89 is required for the  J.D.), and 2) at least 18 of the 92 credit hours in designated Indian law and  related courses. Visit Rules of the Law School for complete details. 

Required courses  after the first year:

To see a full list of courses, refer to Rule 49.

Remaining credits may be earned from the following:                             

Full-time Faculty

Colorado Law's full-time faculty are nationally recognized experts in American Indian Law.

  • Professor Carla Fredericks  is Director of the American Indian Law Clinic and Director of the American Indian Law Program. She is a graduate of the University of Colorado and Columbia Law School. Fredericks is also of counsel to Fredericks, Peebles and Morgan LLP, where she focuses on complex and appellate litigation and Native American affairs, representing Indian tribes and organizations in a variety of litigation and policy matters. She is chair of the Board of Trustees for the Mashantucket Pequot (Western) Endowment Trust, and has been appointed by the American Indian College Fund as its representative to the Indian Education Scholarship Holding Fund as part of the Cobell v. Salazar settlement. Fredericks began teaching at Columbia Law School in New York, teaching Columbia's Legal Practice seminar, focused on development of research, writing and appellate advocacy skills and working with Columbia's National NALSA moot court competition team. She is an enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation.
  • Professor Kristen Carpenter is Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Research. Professor Carpenter writes in the areas of American Indian Law, Property Law, Religion, and Human Rights and her articles have been published in the Yale Law Journal, California Law Review, UCLA Law Review, American Indian Law Review and others. Professor Carpenter is also active in pro bono work with tribes, including federal appellate cases on sacred sites, peyote, and child welfare matters. At Colorado Law, Professor Carpenter teaches courses in Property, Cultural Property, American Indian Law, and Indigenous Peoples in International Law and is the Faculty Advisor to the Native American Law Students Association. She is also the co-founder of the CU Native American Research Faculty group, a university-wide, interdisciplinary effort that promotes indigenous studies and outreach to Native communities.
  • Professor Richard Collins teaches American Indian law courses and seminars as well as basic courses in property and constitutional  law. After clerking for a U.S. Circuit judge, he represented American Indians  and tribes while working for California Indian Legal Services, Dinebeiina  Naihiilna Be Agaditahe (Navajo Legal Services), and the Native American Rights Fund. His work included several cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including McClanahan v. Arizona Tax Commission.
  • Professor Sarah Krakoff is a prior Director of the American Indian Law Clinic and teaches  American Indian Law, American Indian Law Seminar, and Civil Procedure. She has  published several articles on American Indian law and natural resource issues. After  clerking for a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge, she worked as the Youth Law  Project Director for DNA-People's Legal Services on the Navajo Nation.  
  • Professor Charles Wilkinson is considered the leading expert on American West law, history, and society. He is the author of 12 books including Federal Indian Law,  the standard law texts on federal public land law and books written for a  broader audience. He teaches American Indian and natural resources law. He  practiced law with the Native American Rights Fund and has advised the  Departments of Interior, Agriculture, and Justice.

Adjunct Faculty

American Indian Tribes and Organizations

Colorado Law has long-standing relationships with Colorado’s two resident Indian tribes, the Southern Ute Tribe and the Ute Mountain tribes. With more than 30,000 American Indians living within a 30-mile radius of the CU campus, the Law School is ideally situated in what is referred to as the “Hub of Indian Country.” The annual Denver March Powwow is the second-largest American Indian gathering in the United States.

The American  Indian Law Program often coordinates with the Native American Rights Fund, headquartered in Boulder, and with major American Indian organizations in the Denver-Boulder area, including the National Indian Law Library, the American Indian College Fund, the Council of Energy Resources Tribes, and the Native American Fish & Wildlife Society.


Students serve as  externs with local Indian law firms, non-profit entities serving the Native  American community such as the Native American Rights Fund and Intertribal Council on Utility Policy,  government agencies such as the U.S. Environmental  Protection Agency Tribal Programs, and the Southern Ute Tribal Court and Ute Mountain  Tribe.  Students also work under the guidance of Colorado Law faculty on American Indian  and tribal law research issues while providing  much-needed legal work to those most in need.

Scholarships and Fellowships

The Colorado Indian Bar Association vigorously raises funds to provide scholarships to individuals  studying American Indian law at Colorado Law. The American Indian Graduate Center posts fellowship opportunities for law students.

Each year the American Indian Law Program appoints a student or recent graduate as the AILP Fellow to work on program administration, student recruiting, events, research, and pro bono projects in American Indian law.


Fall 2014 AILP Newsletter

Spring 2013 AILP Newsletter

Fall 2012 AILP Newsletter

Spring 2012 AILP Newsletter