The National Native American Bar Association NNABA serves those that practice Indian law. It exists to champion social, political, cultural, legal issues affecting American Indians, Native Hawaiians, and Alaska Natives. It offers regular, associate, and special memberships.
The NNABA represents Indian Nations in addition to individuals. The lawyers are traditionally dual citizens of the United States and their tribal nation. As tribal citizens, the members are responsible for helping to protect the governmental sovereignty of the Native American Tribal governments.
The NNABA was created in 1973 under the name of American Indian Lawyers Association. The name was then changed to American Indian Bar Association and eventually became the Native American Bar Association. When chapters were establish in 1980 for each of the respective state Indian bar associations, the organization adopted the name National Native American Bar Association. Each chapter is allotted a vote on the Board of the Directors, and the association exists to represent all populations indigenous to the lands of the United States.
The goals of the NNABA are to protect the autonomy of the Native Tribal nations and Tribal judicial systems. The Association serves to promote an understanding of the distinctive legal status of Native Americans and inclusion of Indian Law on State Bar exams, particularly in states with Tribal governments.
Under the US Constitution, Indian Tribes are sovereign entities. Indians are not to be taxed. Tribal governments have all the responsibilities of any other including government including providing education and health care for their citizens along with keeping them safe. Tribes have their own infrastructures including court systems, police forces, jails, etc.
There is an increasing problem of law school applicants lying about being Native American. To be Native American one must have Tribal citizenship not solely ethnicity. As a tribal citizen, one is appointed an enrollment number used similarly to a Social Security number. Census data reported an increase of 228 Native American attorneys between 1999-2000. However, law schools accounted for 2,500 Native American graduates. The discrepancy highlights the enormous problem.
Law school curriculum hardly mentions the fact that there are three separate legal structures within the United States. Schools, especially where Indian tribes are located, need to integrate Indian law curriculum into their programs. NNABA works diligently with schools to help make necessary reforms.