People meeting inside Mashpee Tribal Courthouse

Meeting at a Tribal Court

Information for Students

The clinic provides students with an opportunity to represent a tribal government or indigenous organization and develop transferable lawyering skills such as client interviewing and counseling and document drafting.

Clinic students may draft procedural rules for a tribal court, represent a tribe in a land transaction, research and draft tribal laws, address Indian Child Welfare Act policy matters or contribute to communications submitted to international human rights mechanisms on behalf of indigenous communities.

In addition to working on their projects and/or cases, students attend a two-hour weekly seminar which:

  • Explores the unique aspects of lawyering in Indian country and working for tribal governments;
  • Covers advance topics of federal Indian law such as tribal court jurisdiction and practice and the New England Indian settlement acts;
  • Examines international human rights law as it applies to indigenous peoples;
  • Discusses how to advocate before international and regional human rights mechanisms; and
  • Studies and practices lawyering skills such as interviewing, legal strategizing, drafting, counseling and negotiation.

Students who have completed the course, Indigenous Peoples Rights and U.S. Law, will be given preference in the application process.

The Clinic is a full-year; 8 credits with a letter grade.

Information for Tribal Gov’ts/Orgs

The clinic offers free legal services to tribal governments and indigenous organizations located primarily in New England, but also nationally and internationally. Currently, the focus of the Clinic’s projects are nation-building activities such as drafting tribal court rules and code/laws, researching land rights and engaging in policy work around the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The clinic is also engaged in international human rights advocacy efforts before the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, asserting rights under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the American Convention on Human Rights and the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man.

Client projects and cases are accepted on a rolling basis.

Please contact Nicole Friederichs with questions or for more information.

Panel Event - Video

A Hidden History: How Massachusetts Law and Policy Facilitated the Loss of Tribal Lands

April 15, 2014

Suffolk University Law School

Massachusetts colonial and state laws are replete with acts and laws addressing, regulating, taking and, occasionally, protecting tribal lands. Those laws and related policies, even those that sought to protect tribes and their lands, facilitated the steady and sometimes abrupt loss of the tribes’ traditional lands. Many of these tribal communities still remain and continue to feel the loss of their lands. Tribal leaders share the impact of that loss on their communities.

The event was sponsored by Suffolk University Law School’s Native American Law Students Association, Suffolk Law’s Indigenous Peoples Rights Clinic, and the University of Massachusetts Boston Institute for New England Native American Studies.

See also the story in Cultural Surival's Quarterly Magazine.