Native American Bar Association

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

The NNABA represents Indian nations as well as individuals. Attorneys are traditionally citizens of the United States and its tribal nation. As tribal citizens, members are responsible for helping protect the governmental sovereignty of Native American tribal governments.

The NNABA was created in 1973 as the American Indian Lawyers Association. Then the name was changed to the American Indian Bar Association and eventually it became the Native American Bar Association. When chapters were established in 1980 for each of the respective state Indian bar associations, the organization adopted the name of the National Native American Bar Association. Each chapter is assigned one vote on the Board of Directors, and the association exists to represent all indigenous peoples on the lands of the United States.

The goals of the NNABA are to protect the autonomy of native tribal nations and tribal judicial systems. The Association serves to promote understanding of the distinctive legal status of Native Americans and the inclusion of Indian law in state bar exams, particularly in states with tribal governments.

According to the Constitution of the United States, Indian tribes are sovereign entities. Indians do not have to pay taxes. Tribal governments have all the responsibilities of anyone else, including the government, which includes providing education and health care to their citizens, as well as keeping them safe. Tribes have their own infrastructures, including judicial systems, police forces, prisons, etc.

There is a growing problem that law school applicants lie about being Native Americans. To be a Native American, one must have tribal citizenship, not just ethnicity. As a tribal citizen, you are assigned an enrollment number that is used in a similar way to a Social Security number. Census data reported an increase of 228 Native American attorneys between 1999-2000. However, law schools had 2,500 Native American graduates. The discrepancy highlights the huge problem.

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

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