Given all its complex jurisdictional issues, Indian law can be baffling stuff. With 568 federally recognized tribes in the country, 426 tribal courts and 400 different treaties, there is no shortage of variables to muddy the issues.
Appearing with a panel of Indian law experts at the Legal Services Corporation meeting, Rosalie Chavez, a veteran attorney with New Mexico Legal Aid, noted that lawyers in New Mexico have to account for the myriad differences on that state’s 19 Pueblo reservations, where the judicial systems are sometimes based on Western model, other times on traditional custom, and often a blend of the two.
“Whenever we hire a new attorney well then they are going to go where no man has gone before,” said Chavez.
But Gloria Valencia Weber, a professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law and an LSC board member, said jurisdictional issues in Indian country aren’t impossible to grasp.
In fact, she said, they can be boiled down to a single sentence: “Who did what to who on what land?”