UW Law Offers New Indigenous Rights and Indian Law Degree Option
Beginning fall 2016, the University of Washington School of Law will offer a new degree option, Indigenous Rights and Indian Law, within the Master of Laws program in Sustainable International Development.
This one-year program complements the Sustainable International Development program while adding an international and comparative focus to the current Native American curriculum.
“We decided to nest the Indigenous Rights LL.M. with our Sustainable International Development program due in part to the international law origins of American Indian law,” said Anita Ramasastry, professor and Sustainable International Development program director. The Indigenous Rights track will serve law students, practicing attorneys, legal scholars, and advocates whose work focuses on indigenous communities.
“The UW School of Law was the first in the country to offer a course in American Indian law, and the Native American Law Center carries on the school’s tradition of excellence and service in the field,” said Robert Anderson, UW School of Law professor and director of the Native American Law Center.
In this degree option, students will learn about the comparative treatment of indigenous rights in several nations. Students will also explore the root causes of marginalization and poverty, contextualizing their study of the law and policy tools that aim to promote the rights and well-being of indigenous people.
The law school’s Tribal Public Defense Clinic, as well as the Sustainable International Development program’s other clinical and experiential offerings, will allow students to gain firsthand experience working in tribal courts and projects for non-profit organizations.
“Our Tribal Public Defense Clinic is the only clinic of its kind in the country,” said Anderson. “It provides public defense services to tribal members through student representation, and has received national recognition. The students work and learn in the closely supervised law school clinical setting, providing great service, and learning about the practice of law in Indian country and in tribal courts.”
The field of federal Indian law has greatly expanded in the past thirty years, and many major law firms now have Indian law practice groups. Additionally, the approval of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People in 2007 prompted substantial international developments in the law. With this increased international attention, students are expected to come to the program from around the country and the world, said Anderson.