Introducing the Indigenous Law Portal, by Tina Gheen, In Custodia Legis, Law Librarians of Congress
At the recent American Association of Law Libraries Conference, Jennifer Gonzalez, Jolande Goldberg and I had an opportunity to unveil a new Indigenous Law Portal. The Indigenous Law Portal brings together collection materials from the Law Library of Congress as well as links to tribal websites and primary source materials found on the Web. The portal is based on the structure of the Library of Congress Classification schedule for Law (Class K), specifically the Law of the Indigenous Peoples in the Americas (Classes KIA-KIP: North America).
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. . . .