Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples Clinic

This is a year-long clinic offered for 10 credits. Students will receive separate letter grades at the end of the academic year for their clinic work and seminar. The clinic is open to day and evening students in their last two (2) years of law school and Accelerated JD students in their last year. The clinic advocates before international human rights bodies, such as the United Nations or the Inter- American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), on behalf of tribes or indigenous non-profit organizations. Currently, the clinic represents Guatemalan indigenous rights organizations before the IACHR on a freedom of expression petition. Students would have the opportunity to contribute to that representation by updating the Commission on events, researching and writing documents related to the petition and coordinating with NGO staff. The clinic also represents Native American tribal governments and communities, as well as indigenous non-profit organizations located primarily in the New England region, but also nationally and internationally. When working with tribal governments, the types of projects on which students may work are drafting tribal court procedural rules, tribal laws or policies and procedures for a government department.

Additionally, the clinic engages in policy and/or lobbying efforts in the Commonwealth on a range of issues important to Massachusetts’ indigenous peoples such as mascots, Indian arts and crafts and lands.

In addition to working on their projects and/or cases, students attend a two-hour weekly seminar focused on lawyering skills but also:

  • Explores the unique aspects of representing 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; and
  • Discusses how to advocate before international and regional human rights mechanisms.

Through their experience, students will gain transferable lawyering skills such as interviewing, legal strategizing, drafting, resolving ethical issues that arise, and counseling. For students interested in a career in government, the Clinic provides a unique opportunity to learn and experience what that type of work may entail. Students will be asked to critically reflect on their performance in clinic and seminar as an integral part of the learning experience. Although not a requirement, students who have completed the course on Indigenous Peoples Rights and U.S. Law or a course on human rights will be given preference.  Students must have completed or be currently enrolled in Evidence. Please contact Nicole Friederichs, practitioner-in-residence, with any questions.