The NYU-Yale American Indian Sovereignty Project

The NYU-Yale American Indian Sovereignty Project supports the sovereignty of Native nations and addresses the impact of American colonialism on Native peoples through research, advocacy, and education initiatives.

Our Mission

The NYU-Yale Sovereignty Project supports initiatives pertaining to issues of tribal sovereignty and federal Indian law in the United States. Housed jointly at NYU Law and within Yale’s College of Letters and Science, the Sovereignty Project coordinates faculty and student research efforts, campus programmatic work in the field, and educational programming at both campuses.

Co-directed by Professor of Law Maggie Blackhawk (Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe) and and Yale University’s Randolph W. Townsend, Jr. Professor of History and American Studies Ned Blackhawk (Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone Indians of Nevada), the Sovereignty Project has a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach that seeks to build on Indigenous presence in law and governance.

Our Focus Areas


The Sovereignty Project aims to assist Native nations and their citizens by researching, drafting, and filing briefs on cases central to Indian Country, while also developing new collaborative methods for tracking federal court cases involving Indian affairs. Such work and study are critical to further developing the nation’s community of federal Indian law and policy advocates, particularly within the Tribal Supreme Court Project, coordinated by the Native American Rights Fund and the National Congress of American Indians, while also training current law students in the applied and clinical dimensions of federal Indian law. 

Native American Briefing Project


Empirical rigor, measured analyses, and historical contextualization are among the primary attributes of advanced legal history, and Sovereignty Project members have assisted numerous scholars across the nation in their own research and studies. Over a dozen Project students have aided in the Tribal Constitutions Project at Northwestern, with collaborative direction from Northwestern faculty partners. The Project additionally has assisted in convening scholarly workshops for anticipated publications, bringing together field leaders to discuss ways of further advancing the study of Native America. Supporting the development of scholarly projects in the field is another key feature of the Project.

The Tribal Constitutions Project 


In addition to offering formal courses at NYU and Yale, the Sovereignty Project also organizes educational initiatives designed to deepen scholarly familiarity with federal Indian law and policy. Such efforts have included campus workshops, presentations, and guest speakers at NYU and Yale, as well as summer training programs, including the annual seminar for the Institute for Constitutional Studies. Such programmatic efforts and intensive training expose participants to the diversity and dynamism of the field of federal Indian law and also provide opportunities for sustained engagement. Supporting the growth of federal Indian legal studies—across each campus community and within a range of scholarly disciplines—is one of the cornerstone commitments of the Project.