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Walking on Common Ground and the Tribal Law and Policy Institute

The Tribal Law and Policy Institute (TLPI) is working under a grant from the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance on the Walking on Common Ground website to provide resources for promoting and facilitating Tribal-State-Federal collaborations. For additional information Walking on Common Ground, click on the "Background" tab.  TLPI has partnered with the following United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance TA providers on the Walking on Common Ground project:


For additional information on our partners, click on the "Partners" tab.

About the Tribal Law and Policy Institute

The Tribal Law and Policy Institute is a 100% Native American owned and operated non-profit corporation organized to design and deliver education, research, Training, and technical assistance programs which promote the enhancement of justice in Indian country and the health, well-being, and culture of Native peoples. We are guided by a Board of Directors. We utilize an Approach to Training and Technical Assistance which is incorporated into all of our Programs and Services.

We seek to facilitate the sharing of resources so that Indian Nations and tribal justice systems have access to cost effective resources which can be adapted to meet the individual needs of their communities. We strive to establish programs which link tribal justice systems with other academic, legal, and judicial resources such as law schools, Indian law clinics, tribal colleges, Native American Studies programs, Indian legal organizations and consultants, tribal legal departments, other tribal courts, and other judicial/legal institutions. Through these collaborative alliances, we are implementing a synergistic approach to the delivery of services to Indian Country - accessing a wealth of talent and resources. We firmly believe that the coming years will see a dramatic change in the traditional mode of the delivery of tribal justice training and technical assistance services. Our staff and consultants are developing training through a variety of modes such as interactive CD-ROM and Internet based distant learning programs. For a full listing for Tribal Law and Policy Institute Programs and Services, click here.

Tribal Law and Policy Institute Publications

The Tribal Law and Policy Institute has developed a series of Comprehensive Publications. We believe that resources - especially resources developed under federal grants - should be freely accessibly on the Internet in order to maximize tribal access to these resources.


Vision, Mission, Objectives, and Philosophies of the Tribal Law and Policy Institute


Our vision is to empower Native communities to create and control their own institutions for the benefit/welfare of all community members now and for future generations.


Our mission is to enhance and strengthen tribal sovereignty and justice while honoring community values, protecting rights, and promoting well being.


  • To help create and support institutions and systems that work toward improving the welfare of Native communities, including future generations.
  • To support tribal sovereignty and autonomy.
  • To facilitate the empowerment of all Native individuals and communities that have suffered from abuse or abusive historical practices and policies.
  • To enhance the development of resources by making more options available, providing resources and tools for developing tribal sovereignty, and developing model service delivery systems that meet the needs of individual Indian communities in a culturally appropriate manner.
  • To assist tribes in building the capacity to be self-reliant by utilizing tribal members to meet the internally defined needs of the tribe.


Philosophy on sovereignty and historical context:

  • We acknowledge that tribal governments have the inherent capacity and responsibility to effectively respond to issues, disputes, crimes, and crises within their communities.
  • We seek to empower tribal communities to build upon inherent strengths as sovereign nations.
  • We believe that tribal sovereignty and tribal self-determination are critical for the healthy functioning of tribal communities.
  • We believe that addressing tribal issues in contemporary times requires a thorough examination of the historical relationship between individual tribal nations and the federal, state, and local governments.

Philosophy on victimization of Native people and tribal communities:

  • We acknowledge that colonization happened and understand that it has ongoing impact.
  • We believe that past institutionalization of biased policies and practices have created an environment of disparity and despair in parts of Indian Country.
  • We believe that Tribes and individual Native people have suffered and continue to suffer from on going unjust policies and practices that have worked to prevent fully empowering tribes as sovereigns and Native people as self-reliant citizens of Indian Nations.
  • We believe that the response to all violence should include adapting culturally respectful solutions that do not compromise the safety of individuals or communities.

Philosophy on victimization in tribal communities:

  • We believe victims of crime have inherent rights that should be honored and upheld by all governments.
  • We seek to empower victims of crime rather than pathologize their response to victimization.
  • We believe that tribal communities have a long history of providing support and services to victims of crime, and contemporary responses should enhance these inherent strengths.
  • We endorse safety for victims, accountability for offenders, and accountability for governmental entities for prevention of offenses and the rehabilitation of offenders or the segregation of those offenders when that will protect the community.
  • We believe that all governments must be accountable for the safety of their citizens.

Philosophy on gender-based crimes:

  • We believe there is a disproportionately high rate of violence committed against Native women.
  • We acknowledge that prior to colonization, women had revered and respected roles in tribal communities.
  • We believe that colonization has had a disparate impact on women and has promoted violence against Native women.
  • We endorse the reclamation of traditional beliefs about the sacredness of women.
  • We believe that the response to violence against Native women must be framed within an empowerment model.

Philosophy on how we work with tribal nations:

  • We recognize tribal communities themselves are the source of cultural knowledge and legal authority through leaders, elders, and culture-bearers.
  • We believe that tribal communities should control the design and form of their laws and the enhancement of their governmental institutions.
  • We believe that tribal laws should be developed through a representative and inclusive community-based process.
  • We commit to designing "do-it-yourself" tools that can be tailored for the needs of particular tribal communities rather than a "one size fits all" approach.
  • We commit to identifying and working with local consultants and those with expertise in the targeted communities.
  • We commit to working with those organizations that are willing to be accountable to tribal nations and that support our mission.
  • We commit to making resources readily available in a variety of formats at the lowest cost possible.

Philosophy on Alaska Native issues:

  • We recognize and respect the right of Alaska Native villages to express and assert their sovereignty on their own terms.
  • We recognize Native peoples in Alaska have unique histories and challenges that are distinct from those in Native nations in the lower 48.
  • We recognize that statewide organizations and regional organizations representing Native communities do not often have consensus on how to address social and justice system problems.
  • We believe it is essential to collaborate and coordinate with a variety of entities, especially those that share the Institutes mission and philosophies.
  • We believe it is essential to have responses tailored to the local Alaska Native communities.

Philosophy on terminology:

  • We acknowledge that words and labels have tremendous power, especially when referring to the identities of indigenous peoples.
  • We believe that Indigenous Peoples have the right to self-identify and we respect their choices on how to identify themselves.
  • We believe that no single term is acceptable by all indigenous people.
  • We acknowledge the importance of reflecting the sovereign status of tribal nations through words such as "nations" and "governments."
  • We acknowledge the importance of reflecting the political identity of members of tribal nations through the use of the word "citizen."
  • We will use the terms "tribal nations," "tribes," "Alaska Natives," "indigenous nations" and "indigenous peoples" interchangeably to refer to indigenous peoples in a collective sense.
  • We mean to include Alaska Natives when using the term "tribal."