Indigenous Food and Agriculture


Federal Native American law is a broad body of federal law and policy that deals with the unique relationship between the federal government and the various recognized tribes. This type of law has slowly developed since the founding of the country and the current status of today’s laws are tied in closely with the history of its development. The development of Federal Native American law has taken a circuitous route based upon the position of the federal government at a given time and these changes of position (often referred to as eras) still play an important role in modern legal issues. The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power under the Commerce Clause to regulate commerce with the Indigenous Tribes and the President with the power to negotiate treaties with the tribes. Along with early Supreme Court decisions, the provisions found in the Constitution have effectively given the federal government the sole authority to regulate the tribes. The tribes also have a right to self-governance, subject only to the authority of the federal government, which gives rise tribal law, the internal laws that each tribe applies to its own members and affairs. This sovereign authority extends to Indigenous tribal courts, which adjudicate matters relating to tribal affairs. Read the full overview.


American Indian Treaties (National Archives)
Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties (Oklahoma State University)

Major Statutes

Land Fractionation

 General Allotment Act of 1887 (Dawes Act), 25 U.S.C. §§ 331-358

End of Treaty Making 1871

Future treaties with Indian Tribes, 25 U.S.C. § 71
Abrogation of Treaties, 25 U.S.C. § 72
Indian Reorganization Act, 25 U.S.C. §§ 461-479

Termination Policy

House Concurrent Resolution 108 (HCR-108) of 1953
Public Law 280, State Jurisdiction over Offenses Committed by or against   Indians in the Indian Country, 18 U.S.C. § 1162
The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975, 25 U.S.C. §§ 5301-5423

Agriculture and Land

USDA Assistance and Support for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers, Ranchers, Forest Landowners and Operators, and Groups, Pub. L. 117-2, Title I, § 1006 (codified at 7 U.S.C. § 2279 note)
American Indian Agricultural Resource Management, 25 U.S.C. §§ 3701-3746
Protection of Indians and Conservation of Resources, 25 U.S.C. §§ 5101-5144

Historic Preservation and Cultural Protection

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), 25 U.S.C. §§ 3001-3013
National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA), 54 U.S.C. Chapter 3001
The American Indian Religious Freedom Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1996
Indian Sacred Sites, Executive Order No. 13007
Apology to Indigenous Peoples for Past Treatment, 111th Congress 1st Session S. J. Res. 14

Environmental Law

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 9601-9675

42 U.S.C. § 9626 (Indian tribes)
42 U.S.C. § 9628 (a)(1)(B) (State response programs; use of grants by Indian tribe)

Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), 7 U.S.C. §§ 136-136y

7 U.S.C. § § 136u(a) (state cooperation, aid, and training; cooperative agreements with Indian tribes)

Federal Water Pollution Control Act (a/k/a Clean Water Act), 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251 – 1387

33 U.S.C. § 1263 (Alaska native village demonstration projects)
33 U.S.C. § 1377 (Indian tribes)

National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321-4370f

42 U.S.C. § 4368b (Indian Environmental General Assistance Program Act of 1992)

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 6901-6908

42 U.S.C. § 6908a (agreements with Indian tribes)

Safe Drinking Water Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 300f – 300j-26

42 U.S.C. § 300g-9(f)(2) (small public water systems technology assistance centers; water systems that serve Indian Tribes)
42 U.S.C. § 300h-1(e) (primary enforcement responsibility by Indian Tribe)
42 U.S.C. § 300j-1(e)(7) (technical assistance to public water systems owned or operated by Indian Tribes)
42 U.S.C. § 300j-2(a)(2)(B) and (b)(2) (public water systems supervision programs; grants; exception for Indian Tribes)
42 U.S.C. § 300j-6(d) (Indian rights and sovereignty as unaffected)
42 U.S.C. § 300j-11 (Indian Tribes)

Toxic Substances Control Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 2601-2629

Finance and Credit

Assistance for Rural Entities, 7 U.S.C § 1932
Agricultural Credit, 7 U.S.C. §§ 1921-2009aa-13

7 U.S.C. § 1941(c)(4)(A) (direct loans; farm and ranch operations on tribal lands)
7 U.S.C. § 2009c(d) (strategic plans for each federally recognized Indian tribe)

Equal Credit Opportunity Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1691-1691f
Indian Tribal Land Acquisition Program (ITLAP), 25 U.S.C. § 5136


National Indian Forest Resources Management, 25 U.S.C. §§ 3101-3120
National Forests, 16 U.S.C. §§ 471-546a-5

16 U.S.C. § 543f (National forests; traditional Native American uses)
16 U.S.C. § 544d(e) (scenic area management plan; consultations with Indian tribes)
16 U.S.C. § 544g(b)(2)(D) (land acquisition; consent of the Indian tribe)
16 U.S.C. § 544k(b) (National forests; tributary rivers and streams; exception for Indian reservations)
16 U.S.C. § 544o(a) (savings provisions; effect on rights of Indians)

Lacey Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 41-48
Lacey Act Amendments, 16 U.S.C. §§ 3371-3378

16 U.S.C. § 3377(c) (interstate shipment or transshipment through Indian country of fish, wildlife, or plants for legal purposes)

Timber Protection Act of September 20, 1922, 16 U.S.C. § 594
Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003, 16 U.S.C. §§ 6501-6591

16 U.S.C. § 6512(g)(5)(B) (authorized hazardous fuel reduction projects; diverse stakeholders (including Indian tribes)
16 U.S.C. § 6514(f) (environmental analysis; public collaboration with Indian tribes)
16 U.S.C. § 6542(a)-(c) (tribal watershed forestry assistance)
16 U.S.C. § 6572(e)(3) (eligibility and enrollment of lands in program; acreage owned by Indian tribes)


The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, 7 U.S.C. §§ 2011-2036

7 U.S.C. § 2013(b) (food distribution program on Indian reservations)
7 U.S.C. § 2020(d) (administration; plan of operation by State agency; approval by Secretary; Indians)
7 U.S.C. § 2034(c) (assistance for community food projects; eligible entities)

Food Conservation and Energy Act of 2008
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, 42 U.S.C. § 1786

Renewable Energy

Indian Energy, 25 U.S.C. §§ 3501-3506
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, Pub. L. No. 110-140, 121 Stat. 1492 (codified throughout scattered sections of Title 42 U.S.C.)

42 U.S.C. §§ 17151-17158 (energy efficiency and conservation block grants)

Renewable Energy Production Incentive, 42 U.S.C. § 13317
Electricity Produced from Certain Renewable Resources, 26 U.S.C. § 45 (d)(10)
Renewable Fuel Program, 42 U.S.C. § 7545 (o)

Water Law

Federal Power Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 791a – 823d

16 U.S.C. § 796 (Reservations defined)
16 U.S.C. § 803(a), (e), and (i) (recommendations of Indian tribes affected by the project; approval of the Indian tribe; waiver of conditions; use of lands within Indian reservations)
16 U.S.C. § 808 (a-b) (Indian tribe applying for a license for a project located on the tribal reservation; identification of Federal or Indian lands included)
16 U.S.C. § 810 (a) (disposition of charges arising from licenses)
16 U.S.C. § 823c(b) (“qualifying project works” and Indian lands)

Reclamation Act of 1902, 43 U.S.C. §§ 371 – 390h-20

43 U.S.C. § 373b(c) and (e) (authorization of law enforcement officers; legal status of State or local law enforcement officers)
43 U.S.C. § 373d (grants and cooperative agreements with Indian tribes and organizations)

Reclamation Reform Act of 1982, 43 U.S.C. §§ 390aa – 390zz-1

43 U.S.C. § 390jj(a) (water conservation; coordination of ongoing programs; full public participation)

Water Resources Development, 33 U.S.C. §§ 2201 – 2355

33 U.S.C. § 2269 (Tribal partnership program)
33 U.S.C. § 2282(d) (feasibility reports; Indian tribes)
33 U.S.C. § 2326b(c) (sediment management; consultation with Indian Tribes)
33 U.S.C. § 2338(b) (Reburial; consultation with affected Indian tribes)
33 U.S.C. § 2347 (coordination and scheduling of Federal, State, and local actions)
33 U.S.C. § 2348(d) (project streamlining; coordinated reviews)
33 U.S.C. § 2339a (cooperative agreements with Indian tribes)


General Agriculture and Property

Land Acquisitions, 25 CFR §§ 151.1-151.15

25 CFR § 151.3; Land Acquisition policy
25 CFR § 151.4; Acquisitions in trust of lands owned in fee by an Indian
25 CFR § 151.6; Exchanges
25 CFR § 151.7; Acquisition of fractional interests

Issuance of Patents and Removal of Restrictions to Sell Land, 25 CFR §§ 152.1-152.35

25 CFR § 152.17; Sales, exchanges, and conveyances by, or with the consent of the individual Indian owner

Rights-of-Way Over Indian Land, 25 C.F.R. § 169

Agricultural Leases

Land Records and Title Documents, 25 C.F.R. § 150
Land Acquisitions, 25 C.F.R. § 151
Issuance of Patents in Fee, Certificates of Competency, Removal or Restrictions, and Sale of Certain Indian Lands, 25 C.F.R. § 152
Determination of Competency:  Crow Indians, 25 C.F.R. § 153
Osage Lands, 25 C.F.R. § 158
Sale of Irrigable Lands, Special Water Contract Requirements, 25 C.F.R. § 159
Inclusions of Liens in all Patents and Instruments Executed, 25 C.F.R. § 160
Leases and Permits 25 C.F.R. § 162
Leases and Permits; Agricultural Leases, 25 C.F.R. §§ 162.101 – 162.256

25 CFR § 162.205; Can individual Indian landowners exempt their agricultural land from certain tribal leasing policies?
25 CFR § 162.206; Can the terms of an agricultural lease be negotiated with the Indian landowners?
25 CFR § 162.207; When can the Indian landowners grant an agricultural lease?
25 CFR § 162.208; Who can represent the Indian landowners in negotiating or granting an agricultural lease?
25 CFR § 162.209; When can BIA grant an agricultural lease on behalf of an Indian landowner?
25 CFR § 162.211; What type of valuation or evaluation methods will be applied in estimating the fair annual rental of Indian land?
25 CFR § 162.212; When will the BIA advertise Indian land for agricultural leases?
25 CFR § 162.239; How will payment rights and obligations relating to agricultural land be allocated between the Indian landowners and the tenant?

Grazing Permits, 25 C.F.R. § 166
Navajo Grazing Regulations, 25 C.F.R. § 167
Grazing Regulations for Hopi Partitioned Lands Area, 25 C.F.R. § 168
Competitive Leasing, 43 CFR §§ 3420.0-1-3420.6

43 CFR § 3420.1-7; Consultation with states and Indian tribes
43 CFR § 3420.4-4; Consultation with Indian tribes

Business Organizations

Business Development/Small Disadvantaged Business Status Determination, 13 CFR §§ 124.1-124.1001
13 CFR § 124.109; Do Indian tribes and Alaska Native Corporations have any special rules for applying to the 8(a) BD program?

Environmental Law

Pesticide Programs Regulations, 40 C.F.R. pts. 150-180

40 C.F.R. § 171.307; Certification of applicators in Indian country

Radiation Protection Programs Regulations, 40 C.F.R. pts. 190-197

40 C.F.R. § 192.01(k); Definitions; Indian Tribe (Standards for the Control of Residual Radioactive Materials from Inactive Uranium Processing Sites)

Solid Waste Regulations, 40 C.F.R. pts. 239-259

40 C.F.R. § 258.42; Approval of site-specific flexibility requests in Indian country (Solid Waste Regulations)

Superfund, Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Programs Regulations, 40 C.F.R. pts. 300-399

40 C.F.R. § 300.610; Indian tribes (Trustees for Natural Resources)
40 C.F.R. § 300.175(b)(9)(x); Federal agencies: additional responsibilities and assistance Bureau of Indian Affairs: Coordination of activities affecting Indian lands)
40 C.F.R. § 300.180(a)-(b); State and local participation in response (participation of Indian tribes in the appropriate RRT)
40 C.F.R. § 300.515(a)-(b); Requirements for state involvement in remedial and enforcement response (cooperative agreements or contracts with a federally recognized Indian tribe & Indian tribe involvement during response)

Toxic Substances Control Act Regulations, 40 C.F.R. pts. 700-789
State and Indian Tribal Programs, 40 C.F.R. §§ 745.320-745.339

Finance and Credit

General Program Administration, 7 C.F.R. § 761

7 C.F.R. § 761.208(a)(3); Target participation rates for socially disadvantaged groups (when distributing loan funds in counties within Indian reservations)

Guaranteed Farm Loans, 7 C.F.R. § 762

7 C.F.R. § 762.129(b)(1)(iv); Percent of guarantee and maximum loss (when a guaranteed OL is made to a farmer whose farmland is subject to the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe)

Direct Loan Making, 7 C.F.R. § 764.104(c); General real estate security requirements (tribal lands held in trust or restricted)
Indian Tribal Land Acquisition Loans, 7 C.F.R. § 770


General Forestry Regulations, 25 CFR §§ 163.1-163.37

25 CFR § 163.10; Management of Indian forest land
25 CFR § 163.13; Indian tribal forest enterprise operations
25 CFR § 163.35; Indian forest land assistance account
25 CFR § 163.40; Indian and Alaska Native forestry education assistance

National Forest System Land and Resource Management Planning, 36 C.F.R. § 219

36 C.F.R. § 219.4; Requirements for public participation

Protection of Archeological Resources, 36 C.F.R. § 296

36 C.F.R. § 296.5; Permit requirements and exceptions (excavation and/or removal of archaeological resources from public lands or Indian lands)
36 C.F.R. § 296.7; Notification to Indian tribes of possible harm to, or destruction of, sites on public lands having religious or cultural importance

Management of Designated Wilderness Areas, 43 C.F.R. §§ 6301.1-6305.30

43 C.F.R. § 6302.18; How may American Indians use wilderness areas for traditional religious purposes?

Nutrition Programs

Administration of SNAP on Indian Reservations, 7 C.F.R. § 281
Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), 7 C.F.R. § 253

Renewable Energy

Tribal Energy Resource Agreements under the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self Determination Act, 25 CFR § 224

Center Research Publications

Tribal Agricultural Resources

Census Data

2020 Census
2017 Ag Census
2010 Census
Ag Census

Congressional Research Service Reports

Reports– published and made available by CRS beginning in 2017
Subjects- published by CRS and made available by NALC until 2018:

Environmental Issues
Federal Loan Programs
Finance and Credit
Food Security/Aid
Public Lands
Rural Development
Sustainable and Organic Farming

Agricultural Law Bibliography

Introduction   |   Keyword Search   |   Browse Categories

Legal publications on Native American Agriculture:

Energy Issues
Environmental Issues
Federal Loan Programs (Farmers Home Administration/Farm Service Agency)
Hunger and Food Security Issues
Public Lands
Rural Development
Water Rights: Agriculturally Related

Reference Resources

United States Department of Agriculture

Council for Native American Farming and Ranching
USDA Indigenous Food Sovereignty Initiative
USDA Office of Tribal Relations
USDA Programs and Services

United States Department of the Interior

Bureau of Indian Affairs
Bureau of Trust Funds Administration
Bureau of Reclamation, Native American Affairs

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Tribal Programs in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska
Tribal Air and Climate Resources
State and Tribal Assumption of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act
Safe Drinking Water on Tribal Lands
Energy Resources for State, Local, and Tribal Governments
Cleaning Up, Protecting and Preserving Tribal Lands

National Agricultural Library (NAL)

Tribal Communities

Farm Service Agency (FSA)

Native American Tribal Loans
Environmental and Cultural Resource Compliance

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Civil Rights Division
Tribal Assistance
Historically Underserved Producers
Tribal Consultation: A Guide for NRCS Employees

Rural Development

Tribal Outreach

Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)

Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Administration for Native Americans

Department of Justice

Office of Tribal Justice

Congressional Resources

U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
Federally Recognized Tribes
House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States
Library of Congress American Indian Law

Other Federal Resources

Indigenous Stewardship Methods and NRCS Conservation Practices: Guidebook
USDA Resource Guide for American Indians & Alaska Natives
Forest Service National Resource Guide to American and Alaska Native Relations
USDA Forest Service’s Sacred Sites Policy Review
Guide to USDA Programs for American Indians and Alaska Natives
Workbook for Understanding and Improving Partnerships with American Indian and Alaska Natives
APHIS Native American Working Group
The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation Native American Program: Guidance for Federal Agencies
Department of Energy (DOE) Indian Energy and Policy Programs
National Archives for Native American & Alaskan Native Records


The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), 33 U.S.C. §§ 1601-1629h
The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (or ANILCA), 51 U.S.C. §§ 3101-3233
Federal Subsistence Management Program

Additional Resources

ANCSA Regional Association
Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative (U. of Arkansas)
American Indian Law Review (U. of Oklahoma)
Native American Agriculture Fund
Indian Land Tenure Foundation
Intertribal Agriculture Council
National Congress of American Indians 
Alaskan Federation of Natives: Subsistence
Tribal Court Clearinghouse
Indian Law Resource Center
National Indian Law Library
Federal Laws and Native Americans
Intertribal Timber Council
Indian Nations Conservation Alliance
Native Agriculture & Food Systems Initiative
Indian Country Extensions
National Congress of American Indians: Agriculture
Tribal Law (U. of OK College of Law)
Handbook of Federal Indian Law (U. of OK College of Law)
Tribal and Indian Law (Washburn U.)
American Indian Law (Cornell U. Law School)
Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties (OK St. U.)
Indian Law Portal (AZ S. U.)
Guide to American Indian Law Sources (U. of AZ)
Native American Legal Resources (U. of Buffalo)
Researching American Indian Law (U. of MN)
Indian Law Resources (U. of NM)
Northern Plains Indian Law Center (U. of ND)
Great Lakes Indigenous Law Center (U. of WI)
High Plains American Indian Research Institute (HPAIRI) (U. of WY)
Tribal Law Journal (U. of NM)
Native American Law Research Guide (Georgetown U.)


Enhancing Integration of Indigenous Agricultural Knowledge into USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Cost-Share Initiatives (Johnson, Rowe, Lien, & Lopez-Hoffman, 2021)
Cooking Food Customs in the Pot of Self-Governance: How Food Sovereignty Is a Necessary Ingredient of Tribal Sovereignty (Ricart, 2020)
Tribal Forest Management: Innovations for Sustainable Forest Management (Dockry & Hoagland, 2017)
IRS Tax Rules and Native American Producers: One Size Does Not Fit All (Ward, et al., 2014)
How Tribal Water Rights are Won in the West: Three Case Studies from the Northwest (Guiao, 2012)