Massachusetts law about American Indians

Laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on Native Americans and tribal law.

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Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

MGL c. 6, § 12I American Indian heritage week

MGL c. 6, § 12VV  Native American Day

MGL c. 6A, § 8A Commission on Indian affairs; membership; functions

MGL c. 21A, § 18 Tribal housing authorities, fees and technical assistance from DEP

MGL c. 23K, § 67 Negotiation with Indian tribes to establish gaming on tribal land

MGL c. 26, § 8L Regarding Indian Health Care Improvement Reauthorization and Extension Act of 2009

MGL c. 38, § 6 Unmarked human skeletal remains

MGL c. 114, § 17 Preservation of ancient burial places

Federal laws and regulations

25 U.S.C. Indians

25 CFR Indians

United States Department of Interior, Solicitor’s Opinions

The meaning of “under federal jurisdiction” for purposes of the Indian Reorganization Act, United States Department of the Interior, Office of the Solicitor, Memorandum: M-37029 (March 12, 2014). 
The phrase “under federal jurisdiction” in the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 is ambiguous, so the Department should interpret tribal status “on a case by case basis”, and in view of regulations passed in 1978 and thereafter providing procedures by which tribal entities can demonstrate their status as Indian tribes.


Certificate of degree of Indian or Alaskan Native American blood (CDIB) 
Application form and instructions. Also known as the “Native American Card.” For Native Americans in the U.S., having a CDIB card entitles you to benefits, from financial and legal resources to family and health-related benefits. Sign and date the application and return it to the United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs for approval.

Selected cases

Adoption of Arnold, 50 Mass. App. Ct. 743 (2001)
Termination of parental rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Commonwealth v. Maxim, 45 Mass. App. Ct. 49 (1998) and 429 Mass. 287 (1999)
Fishing Rights.

Haaland v. Brackeen, 599 U.S. 255 (2023)
The Indian Child Welfare Act (IWCA), which requires a state court to place an Indian child with an Indian caretaker, if one is available, is not unconstitutional.

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe v. Bernhardt, 466 F. Supp. 3d 199 (2020)
The Department of Interior’s rescinding of the tribe’s reservation status in March 2020 was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and contrary to law”. The Court ordered the Department to issue a different order in conformity to a 2014 M-Opinion (M-37029) standard, by which Indian tribes’ status could be determined “on a case by case basis given a tribe’s unique history” regardless of whether they were federally recognized in 1934 at the time of the Indian Reorganization Act.

United States v. Cooley, 593 U.S. 345 (2021)
"A tribal police officer has authority to detain temporarily and to search non-Indian persons traveling on public rights-of-way running through a reservation for potential violations of state or federal law."

Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) v. Mass Com’n Against Discrim., 63 F. Supp 2d 119 (1999)
Concerns sovereign immunity of the Tribe.

Tribal Courts and governance

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council   
483 Great Neck Road, South
Mashpee, MA 02649
Phone: (508) 477-0208 Ext. 109

Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head Tribal Council
20 Black Brook Road
Aquinnah, MA 02535-1546
Phone (508) 645-9299

Web sources

American Indian law & culture, UConn School of Law, Thomas J. Meskill Law Library.
Explains the difference between Indian Law and Tribal Law, and provides links to other research guides and Resource and Practice Centers.

Feds drop legal battle over tribe's reservation status, WBUR, February 20, 2021.
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe scored a legal victory Friday when the U.S. Interior Department withdrew a Trump administration appeal that aimed to revoke federal reservation designation for the tribe's land in Massachusetts.

Feds revoking reservation status for tribe’s 300 acres, Associated Press, March 30, 2020.
The “U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston upheld a lower court decision declaring the federal government had not been authorized to take land into trust for the Cape Cod-based tribe… The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe…argues a separate lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., is still pending.”

Legislature votes to repeal 1675 Hub ban on Indians,, May 20, 2005.
"The Legislature yesterday voted to repeal a 330-year-old law banning Native Americans from entering Boston, removing a potential obstacle cited by a group of minority journalists reluctant to consider holding a convention here." Note: You must be online in Massachusetts in order to access this link.

Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs
The fundamental role of MCIA is to assist Native American individuals, tribes, and organizations in their relationship with state.

Native American legal websites, University of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
A comprehensive listing of web sites that deal with Native law and legal issues. The University of Tulsa’s Mabee Legal Information Center also offers a Native American legal research guide.

National Indian Law Library
A law library dedicated to federal Indian and tribal law. Assists the public with any Indian law focused issues through their collection of Indian Law resources. Affiliated with the Native American Rights Fund.

Office of Tribal Justice, U.S. Department of Justice.
The Office of Tribal Justice (OTJ) was initially formed in 1995 in response to requests from Tribal leaders for a dedicated point of contact for Indian country-specific legal and policy matters. The Office became permanent in 2010 with the passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act, 25 USC § 3665a (2010).

Tax information for Indian Tribal Governments, Internal Revenue Office of Indian Tribal Governments. 
ITG is the single point of contact with the Internal Revenue Service for Indian Tribal Governments and tribal associates. Information on tax topics and programs for tribes.

Tribal Court clearinghouse, a project of the Tribal Law and Policy Institute.
“One of the most comprehensive websites on tribal justice system issues, and includes a wealth of tribal, state and federal resources.” Includes a good explanation of Tribal Courts with a directory.

United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs 
The Bureau of Indian Affairs’ mission is to enhance the quality of life, to promote economic opportunity, and to carry out the responsibility to protect and improve the trust assets of American Indians, Indian tribes and Alaska Natives.

WWW virtual library - American Indians: index of Native American legal resources on the internet
Includes general law resources, sources related to indigenous issues, legal practices with Indian law specialties, and international resources. 

Print sources

American Indian law in a nutshell, William C. Canby, Jr, West Academic Publishing, 2020.

Cohen's handbook of federal Indian law, LexisNexis, 2012 with supplements.
This is an updated and revised edition of what has been referred to as the "bible" of federal Indian law. 

Contact   for Massachusetts law about American Indians

Last updated: March 14, 2024

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