NYU Law and Yale University launch joint initiative on American Indian sovereignty

On July 2, NYU Law announced the establishment of the NYU-Yale American Indian Sovereignty Project, whose goals include supporting the sovereignty of Native nations and addressing the impact of American colonialism on Native peoples. Professor of Law Maggie Blackhawk (Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe) and Ned Blackhawk (Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone Indians of Nevada), professor of history and American Studies at Yale University, will jointly run the multi-year project.

Maggie Blackhawk
Maggie Blackhawk

“NYU Law is delighted to help create and support this pathbreaking initiative in partnership with Yale University,” Dean Trevor Morrison said. “The important work undertaken by the Sovereignty Project will place the Law School at the forefront of thought leadership on important issues of Federal Indian law and policy, and will provide exciting new opportunities for our students and scholars.”

“A core aim of the Sovereignty Project,” Professor Maggie Blackhawk says, “is to expose and counteract the erasure of American Indians from contemporary discourses on law, policy, and governance and to connect students, scholars, and community members on pressing questions facing American Indians.” The Sovereignty Project will house three initiatives designed to advance educational and legal efforts related to Native nations and Indian law:

  • The Native Amicus Briefing Project—in conjunction with the Native American Rights Fund and the National Congress of American Indians—which is a collaborative research effort among law schools to develop briefs and track ongoing cases relating to Indian law in the federal courts;
  • The Native American Working Group, a coalition of academic working groups, including the Yale Group for the Study of Native America, focused on promoting academic engagement with the field of Native American Studies in collaboration with Native communities; and
  • The Judicial Education Project, aimed at crafting educational programming for the federal judiciary.

Housed jointly at NYU Law and within Yale’s College of Letters and Science, the Sovereignty Project will coordinate faculty and student research efforts, campus programmatic work in the field, and summer training programs at both campuses.

Posted July 2, 2021

Updated September 6, 2022: The Sovereignty Project has partnered with Northwestern University on a project examining the evolution of tribal sovereignty through constitutionalization, and it recently ran a workshop, “Native Peoples, American Colonialism, and the US Constitution,” in cooperation with George Washington University Law School’s Institute for Constitutional History.