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!
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 95 credit hours (89 is required for the J.D.), and 2) at least 18 of the 95 credit hours in designated Indian law and related courses. Visit Rules of the Law School for complete details. Download the American Indian Law Certificate Application.
Required courses after the first year:
Remaining credits may be earned from the following:
Colorado Law's full-time faculty are nationally recognized expertise in American Indian Law.
- Professor Kristen Carpenter teaches Property and American Indian Law, Indigenous Peoples in International Law, and Cultural Property. She is active in research, writing, and pro bono work on American Indian land, culture, and religious freedom. She previously worked at the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation's Office of Legal Counsel and Indian law firms in Colorado and Alaska. She also taught at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and Suffolk University Law School.
- 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.
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.
Spring 2013 AILP Newsletter
Fall 2012 AILP Newsletter
Spring 2012 AILP Newsletter
U.N. Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples Rights to visit CU Law, January 24, 2013