Prof. Matthew Fletcher and Turtle Talk Blog’s Impact

Friday, December 8, 2017

­­Turtle Talk Blogimage courtesy turtletalk.wordpress.com

The Indigenous Governance Program is pleased to highlight the work of Prof. Matthew Fletcher (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians), who joins the JIT 2018 faculty and will teach our first-time Tribal Business Law course.

Fletcher is a Professor of Law, and the Director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at the Michigan State University College of Law. He is also the primary editor and author of Turtle Talk, a leading law blog on American Indian law and policy. Turtle Talk is widely read across Indian Country and provides a wealth of primary source material for legal practitioners and policy analysts in the field of federal Indian law and beyond.

We asked Prof. Fletcher to reflect upon the Turtle Talk blog’s genesis and to discuss how federal Indian law has changed over the past two decades. Here’s what he had to s­­ay:

Professor Matthew Fletcher

Turtle Talk is designed to allow tribal lawyers to have access to legal materials, primary source documents, without paying law firms or Westlaw/Lexis. [When] I moved to Michigan State University, we wanted to make the consent decree materials in United States v. Michigan available online, so we started the blog. Then we just kept going.

The field has changed since 1998, when I first started, by being far more electronic. My first job was at the [Pascua Yaqui Tribe], and we shared one email address, [which] I checked irregularly. There wasn’t a lot of communication between tribal attorneys. Unless we met at a conference…we never really knew what anyone else was doing. That’s all changed, in part because of email, but also because of Turtle Talk, and more recently the Tribal In-House Counsel Association. Now any tribal lawyer can follow how other tribes are dealing with certain issues.

As for law teaching, which I began in 2004, there really hasn’t been much change. And that’s not really a good thing. The number of American Indians in law teaching has been stagnant for a decade now, probably because of the bottoming out of the legal field beginning in 2009. I hope that changes…

Drawing from nearly two decades of scholarship, Professor Fletcher’s JIT 2018 students can expect to examine the unique challenges that tribal governments face when legislating and regulating business activity in Indian Country.

For additional details, please visit: LAW 631T – Tribal Business Law