Indian Law Program


The education of Native people is woven into the long history of Harvard University.  The Charter of 1650 pledges the University to “the education of English and Indian youth” and Harvard’s first Native American graduate graduated in the class of 1665. Since that time, more than 1000 Native people have earned their degrees from Harvard University. Today, almost 170 self-identified Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students attend the University, representing over 50 different tribal nations.


Bethany Berger
Oneida Indian Nation Visiting Professor of Law

Professor Bethany Berger holds the Wallace Stevens Chair at the University of Connecticut School of Law.  A graduate of Wesleyan University and Yale Law School, Professor Berger began her federal Indian law career as a law student working on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation for the Tribal Attorney General.  After graduating, Professor Berger went to the Navajo and Hopi Nations to serve as the Director of the Native American Youth Law Project of DNA-People’s Legal Services.  There, she conducted litigation challenging discrimination against Native children, drafted and secured the passage of tribal laws affecting children, and helped to create a Navajo alternative to detention program.  Professor Berger’s scholarship has been excerpted and discussed in many casebooks and edited collections as well as in briefs to the Supreme Court and testimony before Congress.  She is also a co-author and member of the Editorial Board of Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law and co-author of leading casebooks in both Property Law and American Indian Law.  She has written amicus briefs in five successful federal Indian law cases before the Supreme Court, including McGirt v. Oklahoma  Professor Berger has also served as a judge for the Southwest Intertribal Court of Appeals and as a visiting professor at the University of Michigan Law School, Harvard Law School, and the Pre-Law Summer Institute for American Indian and Alaska Native students.  Professor Berger will teach American Indian Law at HLS during the 2021-2022 Winter Term.

Joseph William Singer
Bussey Professor of Law

Professor Joseph William Singer began teaching at Boston University School of Law in 1984 and has been teaching at Harvard Law School since 1992.  He was appointed Bussey Professor of Law in 2006.  Singer received a B.A. from Williams College in 1976, an A.M. in political science from Harvard in 1978, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1981.  He clerked for Justice Morris Pashman on the Supreme Court of New Jersey from 1981 to 1982 and was an associate at the law firm of Palmer & Dodge in Boston, focusing on municipal law, from 1982 to 1984.  He teaches and writes about property law, conflict of laws, and federal Indian law, and has published more than 50 law review articles.  He was one of the executive editors of the 2012 edition of Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law.  He has written a casebook and a treatise on property law, as well as two theoretical books on property called Entitlement: The Paradoxes of Property and The Edges of the Field: Lessons on the Obligations of Ownership.


Students who want to specialize in Federal Indian Law can effectively get an advanced course by doing an independent writing project. Professor Singer supervises students in research projects and writing law review articles or policy papers on Federal Indian law for credit during the 2L and 3L year. This is a capstone experience allowing for advanced work focused on a student’s particular interests for students who have already taken the basic Federal Indian Law course.


Harvard Law School has an established clinical program with the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) in Boulder, Colorado and Washington, DC. Students may also design and pursue an independent clinical or supervised writing project in Indian law. Students have previously worked with NARF and other Indian law clinicals in a variety of areas, including the current Native Hawaiin rights dispute.


Harvard Law School offers a number of courses for those interested in Indian Country issues, including: American Indian Law; The Art of Social Change: Child Welfare, Education and Juvenile Justice; Climage Change Justice; Colorblindness; Debating Race in American Law; and Environmental Law.  Additionally, Professor Singer routinely leads reading groups on Tribal Sovereignty and related issues.

Programs at Harvard University and Beyond

1. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development

Founded by Professors Stephen Cornell and Joseph P. Kalt at Harvard University in 1987, the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development (Harvard Project) is housed within the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Through applied research and service, the Harvard Project aims to understand and foster the conditions under which sustained, self-determined social and economic development is achieved among American Indian nations. The Harvard Project’s core activities include research, advisory services, executive education and the administration of a tribal governance awards program. In all of its activities, the Harvard Project collaborates with the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy at the University of Arizona. The Harvard Project is also formally affiliated with the Harvard University Native American Program, an interfaculty initiative at Harvard University.

At the heart of the Harvard Project is the systematic, comparative study of social and economic development on American Indian reservations. What works, where and why? For more information, visit

2. Harvard University Native American Program

As one of the University’s Interfaculty Initiatives, the Harvard University Native American Program is uniquely situated to bring together students, faculty, and staff from all parts of the University as well as friends and community members from peer schools and the surrounding Cambridge/Boston area. HUNAP serves three primary purposes on Harvard’s campus: teaching and research, community building, and Indigenous outreach. HUNAP provides students with the opportunity to engage in social, academic and cultural events throughout the year, while also allowing students to work closely with other Native graduate and professional students as well. Many HUNAP members become leading scholars and practitioners who make significant contributions to Indian Country.

For more information, visit HUNAP’s website at

3. National NALSA participation

Harvard NALSA students attend the Federal Indian Bar Association Conference each year, and often also attend the NNALSA Moot Court and Writing Competitions. In 2006 Harvard NALSA even hosted a session of the Navajo Nation Supreme Court.


One thought on “Indian Law Program”

  1. Dear NALSA,

    I would like to bring to your attention a mystery. The Indian Trust Settlement is supposed to provide upwards of $60 million in scholarship funds for Native Americans. The Trust website says that this money is being distributed by the American Indian College Fund (AICF), but the AICF say they aren’t and to contact the Dept. of the Interior. The DOI says they’ve transferred between $4.5million to the AICF and there is no information anywhere online about this money. I wanted to apply for a scholarship for my son, and now I am wondering where millions of trust money for Native Americans has disappeared to. There is nothing on the internet about this mystery, but it worries me that the US is somehow stealing the money back. I’ve tried contacting the DOI and gotten no where. Since Native American students at Harvard might benefit from these funds, I am wondering if you might be able to look into this on behalf of all US Native Americans. It might make a good class project for students.

    Here is the limited information I was able to find:

    Thank you,

    Sonja Rouillard
    Santee Sioux Tribal Member

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