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JUST RELEASED 2024: Promising Strategies: Tribal-State Intergovernmental Collaborations (2024). On July 26, 2021, the Tribal Law and Policy Institute, in collaboration with the Bureau of Justice Assistance, held the “Promising Strategies in Tribal-State-Local-Federal Intergovernmental Collaboration Virtual Meeting.” The panelists highlighted intergovernmental collaborations in child welfare, bail reform, family wellness courts and community wellness courts from Alaska, California, New York, and Maine. The meeting was well attended by invited stakeholders from various disciplines, including Tribal and State courts and law enforcement. TLPI drafted a short publication based on these and other promising intergovernmental collaborations that build resiliency and provide a new way forward in the process. This publication showcases six intergovernmental collaborations with resulting variations in reimagining justice.

JUST RELEASED 2023: Intergovernmental Collaborations to Heal, Protect, and Find Solutions: Joint Jurisdiction 101 (2023). This publication provides general guidance to assist Tribes in making an informed decision concerning the possibility of developing a Joint Jurisdiction Court. The publication discusses what a Joint Jurisdictional Court is, the different models and approaches that exists, how a community can assess their readiness to implement a Joint Jurisdictional model, and will provide recommendations for design, development, and implementation of Joint Jurisdictional Courts from a practical standpoint.  The publication also includes resources and tools used by active joint jurisdictional court practitioners.

Joint Jurisdiction Courts: Needs Assessment Findings and Summary Findings (2022). In September 2019, the Tribal Law and Policy Institute, in collaboration with the Bureau of Justice Assistance, disseminated a needs assessment survey to the joint jurisdiction courts known to be operational. The needs assessment survey responses showed that joint jurisdiction courts share similar characteristics and face similar challenges. The full report provides details on the findings of the needs assessment survey, including an overview of the lessons learned, the effectiveness of joint jurisdiction courts, and the funding needed to support their implementation, sustainability, and growth. The shorter report summarizes key take-aways.

UPDATED for 2020: Tribal-State Court Forums Policy Brief  (2020). This brief provides a summary overview of Tribal-State Court Forums and includes a chart that provides an overview of key features of forums, such as membership attributes, information about authorizing documents and key accomplishments. 

UPDATED for 2020: Tribal-State Court Forums: An Annotated Directory (2020). This directory includes a detailed listing of the 13 currently operational Tribal -State Court forums around the nation. These forums provide unique collaboration opportunities across jurisdictions and have led to such positive outcomes as:  agreements on the transfer of jurisdiction, Indian Child Welfare Act education, tribal court directories, legislation on the enforcement of tribal court orders, judicial relationship building, and many more. Information on each forum includes: membership; funding; structure; organization; key accomplishments and authorizing documentation.

Crossing the Bridge: Tribal-State-Local Collaboration (2019) One of the biggest barriers to successful tribal-state collaboration is taking the first steps toward relationship building.  The historical animosities between tribes and local counties/surrounding states can run deep. Strained relations going back many generations and contentious issues such as land, public safety, etc. can make for what may seem like insurmountable problems.  This can leave those who see collaboration as a possible solution with little hope. This publication gives practical steps toward initiating discussions across jurisdictions.  This publication provides details on “crossing the bridge” to meet jurisdictional peers and begin the relationship building necessary for collaborative endeavors that work toward common goals.

Emerging Strategies in Tribal-State Collaboration: Barriers and Solutions to Enforcing Tribal Protection Orders Meeting Report (2019) Tribally issued protection orders are a crucial means of providing safety and justice in Indian country, particularly given the extremely high rates of violence against Native women. However, for protection orders to be an effective means of providing safety, cross-jurisdictional enforcement is necessary, which can be a challenge. On December 6, 2017, the Tribal Law and Policy Institute, in collaboration with BJA, hosted a day-long meeting to explore the barriers and highlight promising strategies around the enforcement of tribal protection orders. This report details those discussions and summarizes the successful efforts.

California Tribal-State Court Forum E-Updates (Monthly). Beginning in 2012, the California Tribal-State Court Forum has produced monthly "E-Updates." These newsletters consist of both regional and national information on news, announcements, online resources, events and grant opportunities. 

National Convening of Tribal State Court Forums Report (2017). This report summaizes the National Convening of Tribal and State Court Forums on June 2–3, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. The impetus for this meeting was a tribal-state collaboration working-group meeting convened by TLPI and held in 2012, wherein the tribal-state courts forums expressed a strong interest in an in-person meeting to engage in peer-to-peer training and networking. This report provides an overview of the meeting, specifically comments on the focus of TA and the needs of forums.

Michigan's Judiciary Success Stories: How Tribal, State and Federal Courts are Collaborating to Benefit Michigan Families (2017). This publication highlights the success stories of the Michigan Tribal State Federal Judicial Forum, which was created in 2014 to provide an ongoing venue for judges from all three jurisdictions to convene jointly so that we can improve working relations and communication. This publication spotlights the importance of judicial leadership and collaboration between courts, as well as the positive and lasting impact of these relationships on communities, families, and children across the state.

Joint Jurisdiction Courts: A Manual for Developing Tribal, Local, State & Federal Justice Collaborations, 2nd ed. (June 2018), Jennifer Fahey, JD, MPH, Hon. Korey Wahwassuck, Alison Leof, PhD, Hon. John Smith, Project T.E.A.M., Center for Evidence-Based Policy, Oregon Health & Science University. This manual is a roadmap for tribal and community leaders who want to develop joint jurisdiction courts or initiatives in their own communities. It is intended to be a guide, articulating the process developed in one Minnesota community and adopted by other jurisdictions, as well as providing information on creating new joint jurisdiction initiatives. This manual includes references to supplementary materials which may assist tribes and their partners in establishing and managing joint jurisdiction courts.

Tribal-State Court Collaborations Working Group Report (2013). The Tribal Law and Policy Institute hosted a working group session in December of 2012 to discuss tribal-state court collaborations and the successes and challenges that these partnerships currently face. TLPI drafted a report to the Bureau of Justice Assistance with findings and recommendations. The recommendations extend beyond simply the T/TA needed and provide insights into strategies that could be utilized by governments, agencies, and organizations to support tribal and state court collaborations and the resolutions of challenges faced.

State-Tribal Relations Project:  The National Conference of State Legislatures(NCSL), in partnership with the National Congress of American Indians, is involved in a State-Tribal Relations Projectthat will address several specific, substantive issues between states and tribes. Both organizations believe in the importance of educating states and tribes on the processes that promote cooperation in problem-solving. This joint project hopes to promote state-tribal interaction as a necessity of state policymaking and to show how cooperation and collaboration can achieve the results that advance mutual objectives. The project also maintains a Listing of State Committees and Commissions on Indian Affairs.

Tribal Court-State Court Forums: A How-To-Do-It-Guide to Prevent and Resolve Jurisdictional Disputes and Improve Cooperation Between Tribal and State Courts

NCAI Tribal-State Relationships (2010) Reccommendations emerging from the White House Tribal Nations Summit, 2010.



"Overview of Indigenous Restorative Justice and Peacemaking" Held on March 20, 2024. This webinar discussed the history of restorative justice and restorative practices, as well as gave examples of what this looks like in Tribal communities today. Specifically, the webinar gave a detailed overview of Peacemakinga traditional way of resolving conflict. Peacemaking is a community-based process that addresses the concerns of all interested parties by focusing on community care and kinship, to both repair and prevent conflict and harm. It is informed by a Tribe's culture, spirituality, knowledge, and ways of being. This session explored the philosophy, values, concepts, and framework of indigenous resotrative justice models and practices, differentiated them from those utilized in western system environments, and enaged attendees ina dscussion about how these models and practices are being implemented by Tribal courts.                         View the webinar.  View the webinar slides.

"Crossing the Bridge: Tribal-Local-State Collaboration" Held on June 28, 2021. This webinar focuses on a TLPI publication- Crossing the Bridge: Tribal-Local-State Collaboration- that gives practical steps toward initiating discussions across jurisdictions. The webinar provides details on “crossing the bridge” to meet jurisdictional peers and begin the relationship building necessary for collaborative endeavors that work toward common goals the create better outcomes for victims of crime in Indian country. And while focused on those who are just beginning their collaborations, the ideas and suggestions included in the publication and during this presentation can be used to improve established collaborationsView the webinar slides.

"Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts: Intergovernmental Collaboration" Held on July 16, 2021. This webinar explored ways in which tribes have experimented with their neighbors and strategies for building collaborative infrastructures, as discussed in a new TLPI publication - Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts: Intergovernmental Collaboration. The maze of jurisdiction often means that tribes are with limited authority to meaningfully serve their communities. But in partnership, tribal and state jurisdictions can leverage their resources, ensure holistic case planning, and provide restorative accountability. The Healing to Wellness Court, an intentional deviation from the compartmentalized, adversarial, offense-centric approach, provides an apt opportunity for innovation in collaboration. Needs like housing, social services, vocational training, child care, physical and mental health treatment, can be addressed by both jurisdictions. Court can negotiate supervision, defense counsel, conditions of probation, and other legal motivations. View the webinar slides.

"Justice Reimagined: Healing Communities and Improving Outcomes through Joint Jurisdiction" Held on August 5, 2021. Tribal, state, federal and local courts operate in a patchwork of overlapping jurisdictions, facing common challenges and limited resources. To address these concerns, a growing number of courts have come together in a joint jurisdictional model that acknowledges each other’s autonomy, while sharing resources for better outcomes for everyone. During this webinar, the authors of TLPI’s Joint Jurisdiction Courts: Needs Assessment Report tell the story of these joint jurisdiction courts, share lessons learned, and make recommendations for other jurisdictions considering a collaborative approach to heal their own communities and improve outcomes for the people they serve.  View the webinar slides.

"Tribal-State Court Forums" Held on August 16, 2021. Tribal and state courts interact across many issues, including child welfare, enforcement of court orders, and civil commitments. Courts are a key arena for interaction and have great potential for collaboration. Unfortunately, Tribal and state courts can disagree on jurisdictional issues and that can interfere with addressing issues of great importance to both jurisdictions. Difficult historical realities exist in some states that create a wedge that takes hard work to mend; but with collaboration comes the trust building that ultimately increases safety and justice in Indian country. Through tribal-state court forums, judges and court personnel have a venue for gathering together to foster relationships, discuss areas of mutual concern, develop legislative initiatives, and find a common ground. There are 13 known tribal-state court forums in the United States. This webinar included a panel of forum members from: California, Michigan, Minnesota and New York, who discussed the accomplishments and challenges when working in these unique and promising collaborations. View the webinar slides.

"Tribal, State and Local Collaborations for Enforcement of Tribal Protection Orders " Held on August 30, 2021. This webinar focused on drafting enforceable tribal protection orders. This includes meeting the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Full Faith and Credit requirements, crafting orders that may provide the basis for criminal actions for violations of a protection order and drafting remedies tailored to meet the needs of victims. It will also include a discussion on some promising practices for state and local enforcement of tribal protection orders. View the webinar slides.

Virtual Meeting | Promising Strategies in Tribal-State-Local-Federal Intergovernmental Collaboration Held on July 26, 2021. The Tribal Law and Policy Institute held a virtual intergovernmental collaboration meeting to highlight promising practices in tribal-state-local-federal intergovernmental collaborations. Each program identified had an opportunity to discuss each of their collaborations, their positive outcomes, and keys to success, and provide guidance on replication. View the recorded meeting

"Tribal-State Court Collaboration Based on Native Justice Traditions" Held on July 25, 2013. This webinar highlighted three programs that blend native and state justice on innovative ways to improve state and tribal justice. Staff of the Center for Court Innovation’s peacemaking pilot program at the Red Hook Community Justice Center discussed how traditional Native American practices are used to resolve disputes that originate in either the justice system or in the community. Peacemaking is a traditional Native American approach to justice that strives to resolve the immediate dispute, but also to heal the relationships among those involved and restore balance to the community. In the second program, Justice officials from the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe in Akwesasne, New York discussed how The Healing to Wellness/Drug Court, housed under the Tribal Court, uses cultural traditions to restore and heal justice involved tribal members in collaboration with neighboring Courts. Lastly, representatives from the New Mexico Tribal–State Judicial Consortium and Cross Cultural Exchanges discussed how the Consortium contributes to collaboration among state and tribal courtsView the webinar.  View the webinar slides.

"Tribal Access to Federal Criminal Justice Databases" Held June 25, 2013.  It is important for tribal law-enforcement agencies and courts to have access to vital criminal justice information that can be used to protect their citizens and individuals residing in Indian Country. Tribes’ ability to access and manipulate this information allows tribal law enforcement to protect not only those within their borders, but members who live beyond the tribe’s external boundaries. In this webinar, we discussed tribal access to federal databases maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS). These critical national databases include the National Crime Information Center, Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, and National Instant Criminal Background Check System. We will focus on the barriers that tribes face in gaining access to national databases and what steps tribes can take to help overcome these challenges. Presenting at this webinar were Kirk Flerchinger, Sex Offender Registry Officer for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR); Kimberly K. Lough, Management and Program Analyst in the Criminal Justice Information Services Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); and, Chris Chaney, an enrolled member of the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma and Unit Chief for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Office of the General Counsel, Access Integrity Unit (AIU). View the webinar.  View the webinar slides.  

"Defender Initiatives in Indian Country" Held on June 11, 2013. While this is the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark case that secured the right to government paid counsel in state criminal proceedings, many state, local and tribal justice officials are unaware that the right to free defense council does not apply in Indian Country. The 2010 Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA) and the 2013 Reauthorization of the Violence Against Woman Act (VAWA) include provisions that affect not only tribal courts in general, but the indigent defender community specifically. Defender Initiatives in Indian Country will discuss how recent legislation has affected tribal courts and the tribal defender community and will examine how two tribal defender initiatives are enhancing the provision of justice and improving perceptions of procedural fairness. This webinar will highlight the work of the Defenders Office of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in Montana and the work of Anishinabe Legal Services, an Indian Legal Services program that serves the Leech Lake, White Earth and Red Lake Reservations in Northern Minnesota. In addition, this webinar will discuss state and federal resources available to support indigent defense in tribal courts. Presenters for this webinar are Ann Sherwood, managing attorney with the Defenders Office of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai; Cody Nelson, co-executive director, Anishinabe Legal Services, Maha Jweied, senior counsel, Access to Justice Initiative within the US Department of Justice and Alex Sierck, project director, Center for Holistic Defense, a project of The Bronx Defenders. View the webinar. View the webinar slides.

"Enhancing Cooperation: Tribal-State Public Safety Agreements" Held March 26, 2013.  This webinar, hosted by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the National Criminal Justice Association (NCJA) with support by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) focused on tribal-state public safety agreements. These agreements include memoranda of understanding, cross-deputization agreements, and mutual-aid agreements. The discussion focused on the importance of tribes, states, and localities working together on public safety issues; addressed obstacles to cooperation; and highlighted best practices the Navajo Nation has used in forging these agreements in multiple states. View the webinarView the webinar slides.

View supporting materials:


Walking on Common Ground Reports

Click on the Background page for a detailed history of Walking on Common Ground.

Pathways to Equal Justice (2005). 

Resolution 27: To Continue the Improved Operating Relations Among Tribal, State, and Federal Judicial Systems (2002). In August 2002, the Tribal Relations Committee of the Conference of Chief Justices adopted this resolution which was intended to endorse continued efforts to Build on Common Ground, including the endorsement of the following three principles: First, tribal state, and federal courts should continue cooperative efforts to enhance relations and resolve jurisdictional issues. Second, Congress should provide resources to tribal courts consistent with their current and increasing responsibilities. Third, tribal, state, and federal authorities should take steps to include cross-recognition of judgments, final orders, laws, and public acts of the three jurisdictions

Building on Common Ground: A National Agenda to Reduce Jurisdictional Disputes Between Tribal, State, and Federal Courts (1993) is the formal report and recommendations from a national leadership conference held in Santa Fe, New Mexico in September 1993 in which tribal, state, and federal leaders from throughout the United States met to develop a national agenda for improvement of working relationships between tribal, state, and federal judicial systems.

1993 Building on Common Ground Document (1993) A Leadership Conference to Develop A National Agenda to Reduce Jurisdictional Disputes Between Tribal, State, and Federal Courts.




"Federal Re-Assumption of Criminal Jurisdiction under the Tribal Law and Order Act: The White Earth Experience"

 Held January 31, 2014.  This training focused on the provisions of the Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA) that allow tribes, under Public Law 280 jurisdiction, to request the federal government re-assume certain criminal jurisdiction on the tribe’s reservation. The morning session included information on Public Law 280 and the TLOA followed by an afternoon presentation by tribal representatives from the White Earth Nation, the only tribe whose request has been granted for federal re-assumption of jurisdiction under Section 221 of the TLOA.  


CILS Power Point

CILS handout

White Earth Power Point

White Earth handout



Tribal-State-Federal Collaboration Articles/Monographs

Tribal-State Relations: Michigan as a Case Study (2009) by Matthew Fletcher, Alicia Ivory, Adrea Korthase, Sheena Oxendine. Michigan State University conducted a study of what became an oral history of modern Michigan tribal-state relations under a contract with the National Congress of American Indians. Students interviewed many of the major players in Michigan tribal-state relations from the 2000s and before.

Great Lakes region and the State of Michigan.

The Commission on State-Tribal Relations: Enduring Lessons in the Modern State-Tribal Relationship (2012) by Tassie Hanna, Sam Deloria, and Charles E. Trimble. This article, written by the founders of the Commission on State-Tribal Relations, traces the historical development of a new approach to state-tribal relations in the 1970’s, during a time of heightened tension between state and tribal governments.

Waves of Education: Tribal-State Court Cooperation and the Indian Child Welfare Act (2012) by Kathryn Fort. Published in the Tulsa Law Review, this article focuses on the relationship and agreements between tribal and state judicial systems in Michigan. In tracing that work, the article demonstrates the cyclical nature of tribal-state court relations, and the way the welfare of Indian children binds together tribal and state judicial systems, regardless of either side’s participation.

State and Tribal Courts: Strategies for Bridging the Divide (2011) is a publication from the Center for Court Innovation that provides a history and examples of specific initatives, experiments and collaborations between tribal and state courts.

A special edition of the Center for Court Innovation's Law Journal (2011) on tribal justice has many articles addressing collaboration issues.
Reassessing Concurrent Tribal–State–Federal Criminal Jurisdiction in Kansas (2011) by John J. Francis,Stacy L. Leeds, Aliza Organick, & Jelani Jefferson Exum. Federal Indian Law is frequently described as a jurisdictional quagmire.1 Depending on the unique history of a given tribe, the extent to which the tribe has retained a territorial boundary or contiguous land base, and depending on a tribe’s geographic location, a different mix of exclusive or concurrent tribal, state, federal jurisdiction will result Moreover, the practical realities on the ground often result in one sovereign entity exercising more or less power than the law on the books might otherwise suggest.

Culture Card: A Guide to Build Cultural Awareness: American Indian and Alaska Native (2010) was developed by the  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). This helpful and user friendly guide for is meant for non-Native service providers working in Indian country.  SAMHSA’s  “Culture Card: A Guide to Build Cultural Awareness: American Indian and Alaska Native”offers a basic orientation to American Indian and Alaska Native culture in the form of a publication the size of a playing card that folds out like a map.  The card is meant to be a starting place for information, and should be followed by seeking out someone who can orient you to the specifics of the particular tribe or community you are working with.  To download the publication or order free copies, go to:

Consultation with Indian Nations (2001) by American Indian Development Associates highlights successful strategies that define the unique government-to-government relationship that exists between the Indian nations and the U.S. government.

Improving the Relationship Between Indian Nations, the Federal Government, and State Governments (2000), by Jerry Gardner. In order to effectively address criminal justice issues in Indian country and services for victims of crime in Indian country, it is vital that productive efforts are made to improve the relationship between Indian Nations, the federal government, and state governments. The first step required in any effort to improve these relationships is an understanding and recognition of the unique sovereign status of Indian Nations. Second, contemporary problems in the relationship between these governments should be examined. Third, recent examples of efforts to improve the relationship between these governments should be reviewed. Then, the potential use of written cooperative agreements – such as Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) – to improve the relationship between these governments should be examined. Finally, practical tips for developing and implementing written cooperative agreements should be reviewed.

Concurrent Tribal And State Jurisdiction Under Public Law 280 (1998), by Vanessa J. Jiménez and Soo C. Song
Every nation’s survival and self-governance hinges on its ability to maintain law and order and secure “comfortable, safe, and peaceable living” among its citizens. Indian nations are no different. Tribal governments need to maintain an adequate measure of justice and peace among their members if they are to survive and develop as viable entities. Tribal justice systems, including tribal courts and law enforcement, are essential institutions of tribal self-government. Currently, many tribal justice systems—widely varied in their relative sophistication and form—find themselves at a pivotal point in their development. Although increasing in number and prominence, uneven political, legal, and financial support impedes the ability of many tribal justice systems to function in full parity with state and federal systems …

Resolving State – Tribal Jurisdictional Dilemmas (1995), by Stanley G. Feldman and David L. Withey
As a project of the Conference of Chief Justices is demonstrating, it is possible through communication and cooperation to minimize jurisdictional problems between state and tribal courts.

Multiple Sovereignties: Indian Tribes, States, and the Federal Government (1995), by Judith Resnik
Although often unrecognized, three entities within the territory that constitutes the United States – Indian tribes, states, and the federal government – have forms of sovereignty. The rich and complex relationships among these three sovereignties need to become integrated into the discussion and law of federalism.

Morisset, Schlosser, Ayer, & Jozwiakhas a series of papers on Indian Law, including Enforcing Tribal Court Judgments in State Court: Three Perspectives (1994), by Kyme Allison McGaw (September 1994).


Publications for Purchase

The Other Movement: Indian Rights and Civil Rights in the Deep South (2012), Denise E. Bates, University of Alabama Press.

Negotiated Sovereignty: Working to Improve Tribal-State Relations (2004), Jeffrey S. Ashley and Secody J. Hubbard, Praeger Press, CT.

Government to Government: Models of Cooperative between States and Tribes (2002), National Conference on State Legislatures.

Government to Government: Understanding State and Tribal Governments (2000), National Conference on State Legislatures and National Congress of American Indians.


Useful Websites

National Center for State Courts

National Conference of State Legislatures

National Congress of American Indians Tribal Law and Order Act Resource Center  

U.S. Department of Justice, Tribal Justice and Safety

Tribal Court Clearinghouse Tribal-State Relations