Indian Bar Association

Indian Bar Association

The National Indian Bar Association NNABA serves those who practice Indian law. It exists to advocate for social, political, cultural, and legal issues affecting American Indians, Native Hawaiians, and Alaska Natives. Offers regular, associate and special memberships.

NNABA represents Indian nations in addition to individuals. Lawyers are traditionally dual citizens of the United States and their tribal nation. As tribal citizens, members are responsible for helping to protect the state sovereignty of Indian tribal governments.

NNABA was established in 1973 under the name American Indian Bar Association. The name was then changed to the American Indian Bar Association and eventually became the Native American Bar Association. When chapters of each of the respective state Indian Bar Associations were established in 1980, the organization adopted the name National Indian Bar Association. Each chapter has voting rights on the Board of Directors, and the association exists to represent all indigenous populations in the lands of the United States.

NNABA’s goals are to protect the autonomy of local tribal nations and tribal court systems. The association serves to promote understanding of the distinctive legal status of Native Americans and the inclusion of Indian law in state bar examinations, particularly in states with tribal governments.

According to the US Constitution, Indian tribes are sovereign entities. Indians are not taxed. Tribal governments have all the responsibilities of any other government, including providing education and health care for their citizens, along with keeping them safe. Tribes have their own infrastructures including judicial systems, police forces, prisons, etc.

The problem of law school applicants lying about being Native American is growing. To be Indian, one must have tribal citizenship, not just ethnicity. As a tribal citizen, one receives a registration number used similar to a social security number. Census data reported an increase of 228 Native American lawyers between 1999 and 2000. However, law schools accounted for 2,500 Native American graduates. The disparity highlights the huge problem.

The law school curriculum barely mentions the fact that there are three separate legal structures in the United States. Schools, especially where Indian tribes are located, should integrate the Indian law curriculum into their programs. NNABA is working diligently with schools to help make the necessary reforms.

If you would like more information about the Native American Bar Association or help finding a lawyer, visit

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