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Tribal Public Health

Tribal Public Health Law Resources

There are 573 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and villages in the United States. These tribes are sovereign nations that maintain a government-to-government relationship with the United States and have the inherent powers of self-government. As sovereign nations, tribes are uniquely situated to use law as a public health tool to promote the health and well-being of their communities. Additionally, federal law creates a framework that governs the relationships among tribes, states, and the federal government that can affect tribal public health. The resources below are law and policy resources related to tribal public health.

  • The Tribal Legal Preparedness Project
    Public health emergencies are issues that every community faces. Therefore, it is critical for all jurisdictions to understand how law can be used to enhance public health preparedness as well as improve coordination and collaboration across jurisdictions. As sovereign entities, tribal governments have the authority to create their own laws and take steps to prepare for and respond to public health emergencies. The Tribal Legal Preparedness Project has been established to assist tribal nations interested in expanding their legal preparedness capacity.
  • Selected Tribal Laws Related to Occupational Safety and Health
    This document offers examples of selected tribal laws related to occupational safety and health that can be referenced by jurisdictions interested in developing or updating their own occupational safety and health laws. It provides examples of occupational safety and health codes, laws specific to certain industries or activities, child labor laws, and workers’ compensation laws.
  • Tribal Emergency Preparedness Law
    This issue brief provides an introduction to tribal emergency preparedness law. It discusses tribal emergency preparedness authorities and provides examples of these authorities across various tribal laws; examines federal Indian law in the context of emergency preparedness; and addresses cross-jurisdictional coordination between tribes and other jurisdictions.
  • Marijuana Legalization in Indian Country: Selected Resources
    A list of resources collected and published by CDC’s Public Health Law Program that describe and comment on the legalization of marijuana in Indian Country.
  • Menu of Selected Tribal Laws Related to Mosquito and Vector Control
    An inventory of select tribal laws related to mosquito and vector control laws. This menu offers examples of selected tribal laws related to mosquito and vector control that can be used by jurisdictions interested in developing or updating their own vector control laws to respond to vector-borne disease threats.
  • Tribal Public Health and the Law: Selected Resources [PDF – 347KB]
    A list of resources collected and published by CDC’s Public Health Law Program (PHLP) that describe and comment on tribal public health law topics, including infectious disease control, emergency preparedness, and public health data.
  • Senators Introduce Bill on Tribal Healing to Wellness Court [PDF – 178KB]
    Provides information on Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts and a short overview of a recent US Senate bill authorizing funding to support tribes establishing Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts.
  • Tribal Consultation: Selected Resources [PDF – 279KB]
    A list of resources that describe and offer commentary on state and federal tribal consultation. The list includes summaries of relevant laws, scholarly articles, and resources for consultation support.
  • Emergency Declarations and Tribes: Mechanisms Under Tribal and Federal Law 
    Tribes have inherent authority as sovereign nations to undertake measures to prepare for and manage public health emergencies in the manner most appropriate for their communities. Coupled with existing federal statutes, there are multiple mechanisms for tribes, either directly or through a state or the US federal government, to declare an emergency or receive the benefits of a federal declaration. This article summarizes several types of emergency declarations, including tribal declarations, Stafford Act declarations, and federal public health emergency declarations, and their implications for tribes. Sunshine G, Hoss A. Emergency declarations and tribes: mechanisms under tribal and federal law. Michigan State International Law Review 2015;24:33–44.
  • Menu of Selected Tribal Laws Related to Motor Vehicle Safety [PDF 409KB]
    An inventory of select tribal laws related to motor vehicle safety. This menu informs tribal public health practitioners, policy makers, and attorneys about tribes’ use of law as a tool to address motor vehicle-related injuries.
  • Tribal Water Rights: Exploring Dam Construction in Indian Country [PDF 105KB]
    This article examines the legal and policy framework related to tribal water rights, with a focus on the impacts of dam construction in Indian Country. Three dam projects were highlighted—the Dalles Dam, Elwha River Dams, and Pick-Sloan Missouri River Basin Program. Church J, Ekechi CO, Hoss A, and Larson AJ. Tribal water rights: exploring dam construction in Indian Country. The Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics  2015;60–3. DOI: 10.111/jlme.12218.
  • Tribal Epidemiology Centers Designated as Public Health Authorities [PDF 500KB]
    Provides an overview of tribal epidemiology centers and the recent amendment to the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (permanently reauthorized by the Affordable Care Act), which designated these centers as public health authorities. The issue brief further outlines the impact of this designation under HIPAA.
  • The Affordable Care Act & American Indian and Alaska Native Communities: Selected Readings and Resources [PDF 229KB]
    A list of readings and resources that describe the Affordable Care Act and the Indian Health Care Improvement Act’s impact on American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities. The list includes summaries of the laws, scholarly articles, and resources on enrollment and exemptions.
  • American Indian and Alaska Native Hunting and Fishing Rights [PDF 166KB]
    An overview about key legal doctrines courts have developed to explain off-reservation AI/AN hunting and fishing rights. These doctrines are significant in a public health context because many tribal communities rely on traditional foods for subsistence.
  • Infectious Disease Control Menu [PDF 295KB]
    An inventory of select tribal laws related to infectious disease control. This menu informs tribal public health practitioners, policy makers, and attorneys about tribes’ use of law as a tool to address infectious disease control.

Tribal Public Health Law Webinars

  • Infectious Disease Reporting and American Indian and Alaska Native Populations: Law and Practice
    As sovereign nations, tribes have the inherent authority to undertake measures to prepare and manage public health infectious disease threats in the manner most appropriate for their communities. However, cross-jurisdictional issues between tribes, states, and the federal government can affect infectious disease management and reporting in practice. This webinar offers a discussion on how law can affect infectious disease reporting, including a discussion of tribal, federal, and state law. You must enter your email address to view the recording. (Mar. 28, 2016)
  • Working With Tribal Communities
    This webinar, hosted by the American Public Health Association, provides insights regarding the environmental health concerns of tribal communities and how the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry supports tribes in addressing these concerns. (Dec. 17, 2015)
  • Tribal Public Health Data and Surveillance: The Role of Law
    Tribal, state, and federal laws create pathways for the collection of health data that can be used for public health surveillance. However, jurisdictional issues can limit access to these data. This webinar, hosted by the Network for Public Health Law, provides an overview of legal considerations related to health data, gives background information on AI/AN public health data and surveillance issues, and discusses the role of law in the access to these data. Topics discussed include data access and quality; the role of tribal, state, and federal jurisdictions; and tribal epidemiology centers. (Nov. 5, 2015)
  • Tribal Tobacco Control and the Law
    Legal interventions have proven to be one effective way for tobacco control. This webinar, hosted by the Network for Public Health Law, highlights the difference between traditional and commercial tobacco use among AI/ANs and outlines the public health impact of commercial tobacco use on AI/AN populations. It also discusses the legal framework for tobacco taxing and control and reviews effective commercial tobacco control laws. (Oct. 7, 2015)
  • Tribal Emergency Preparedness Law and Practice
    Both tribal laws and federal laws can affect emergency preparedness practice. This webinar, hosted by the Network for Public Health Law, describes how law can affect tribal emergency preparedness practice and discusses legal mechanisms for emergency declarations. (Sept. 24, 2015)
  • Advancing Tribal Public Health Through Law: Legal Technical Assistance and Resources for Tribes and Tribal-Serving Organizations
    This webinar, hosted by the Network for Public Health Law, provides an opportunity for tribal leaders, health practitioners, health program directors and staff, and other stakeholders to learn about the role of law in addressing public health issues affecting tribal communities. Presenters from the National Indian Health Board, CDC’s Public Health Law Program, the Network for Public Health Law, and the National Congress for American Indians share information on the role of law in advancing tribal public health goals. The webinar also provides examples of legal technical assistance offered to tribes on public health issues, including development of public health codes, hunting and fishing rights, and legal preparedness for public health emergencies. (May 29, 2014)

Internships and Externships

PHLP is now offering Internships and Externships in Tribal Public Health Law for rising third-year law students. PHLP maintains a core project track on tribal public health law, developing resources on both tribal and Indian law to support the use of law as a public health tool for tribes and American Indian and Alaska Native communities.

Additional Resources

  • CDC’s Tribal Support Unit, housed within CDC’s Office for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support, is the primary link between CDC, the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry, and tribal governments. Tribal Support Unit activities focus on fulfilling CDC’s supportive role in ensuring that AI/AN communities receive public health services that keep them safe and healthy.
  • Indian Health Service, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, is responsible for providing federal health services to AI/ANs.
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs is responsible for the administration and management of 55 million surface acres and 57 million acres of subsurface minerals estates held in trust by the United States for American Indians, Indian tribes, and Alaska Natives.

Disclaimer: Information available on this website that was not developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not necessarily represent any CDC policy, position, or endorsement of that information or of its sources. The information contained on this website is not legal advice; if you have questions about a specific law or its application you should consult your legal counsel.

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