From an Introductory Blog Post:
Indigenous law materials can be difficult to locate for a variety of reasons. Tribal laws are usually maintained by individual tribes or groups of tribal peoples who may or may not have the resources to make them available in electronic format, or they may only be passed on through oral tradition. In some cases tribal legal materials are available electronically, but they may not be available freely on the Web, or the tribe may want to restrict outside access to the materials. However, through our research, we have found many tribes compile their laws and ordinances into a code, and they often provide a digital version of their most recent code and constitution online. In the Law Library, we already have digitized copies of historic American Indian constitutions from our collection and other legal materials available on our website. It makes sense to bring all these materials together in one place.
But how to organize such a collection of digital resources? Especially when the complexity and availability of resources varies from tribe to tribe. We wanted a structure that would allow us the flexibility to organize and expand as needed. Something that would provide a basic backbone for organizing the materials and also detailed information about the tribes individually and as a whole. The answer to our dilemma came from an unexpected place: a new classification schedule developed by Jolande Goldberg of the Library of Congress Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access Directorate: the Law of the Indigenous Peoples in the Americas.
At the moment we are focusing on tribal laws within the geographic United States. We aren’t finished – and as with many collections of constantly changing materials, we may never be finished – but the portal is live in a beta release on the Law Library website.
One of the hardest challenges we face with this portal is a usability issue. The portal homepage includes a map organized by region as well as state. The classification schedule is organized only by region, not state, which makes good sense when you consider U.S. state boundaries have no bearing on a tribe’s location. In fact, some tribal lands cross state lines. Ideally, we would like to organize all materials by region. Unfortunately, when we tried to build our portal using just the regions as delimiters, the end result was not usable. We had five extremely long pages, which required the user to scroll down an extensive list. So for now, we are using states as geographic boundaries to break up the information into smaller, more easily navigated chunks. We are working to find a better way to provide access for future releases.
We hope all our users find this new resource useful. We still have a long way to go, but we hope you will take a look at our work and send us your feedback. We will complete the United States region in the next few weeks and plan to move on to the aboriginal peoples of Canada in the near future.
Direct to New Portal