Wayne State University
Kirsten Matoy Carlson
Kirsten Matoy Carlson
Associate Professor of Law and Adjunct Associate Professor of Political Science
Room 3243
(313) 577-1201
Research website


Ph.D., University of Michigan
J.D., University of Michigan Law School
M.A., Victoria University in New Zealand
B.A., The Johns Hopkins University


Kirsten Matoy Carlson is an associate professor at Wayne State University Law School. Her research focuses on legal advocacy and law reform, with particular attention on the various strategies used by Indian nations and indigenous groups to reform federal Indian law and policy effectively. Carlson's research integrates traditional legal analysis with social science methodologies for studying legal and political advocacy.

From May 2014 through July 2017, she has a National Science Foundation Law and Social Science Program grant to fund her research project, Legal Mobilization, Rights Claims, and Federal Indian Policy Reform. Carlson previously received a National Science Foundation dissertation research grant to study the constitutional entrenchment of Aboriginal and treaty rights in Canada. As a Fulbright Scholar, she researched attitudes toward the Waitangi Tribunal and the treaty claims settlement process in New Zealand. Her articles have been published in the Michigan Law Review, University of Colorado Law Review, Indiana Law Journal, American Indian Law Review and Michigan State Law Review.

At Wayne Law, Carlson teaches federal Indian law, legislation, legal change and civil procedure. She serves on the State Bar of Michigan Standing Committee on American Indian Law and is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation.

Carlson brings a range of professional and academic experience to her teaching and research. Prior to joining Wayne Law, she advocated nationally and internationally to protect the rights of Indian nations as a staff attorney at the Indian Law Resource Center. She led the center's advocacy efforts to restore criminal jurisdiction to Indian nations to end violence against women in Indian Country. Carlson also has been a visiting research scholar at the University of Ottawa and a visiting associate professor at the University of Minnesota Law School. She clerked for the Hon. Diana E. Murphy of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Carlson earned her law degree cum laude and a doctorate in political science from the University of Michigan, a master of arts degree with distinction in Maaori studies from the University of Wellington, New Zealand, and a bachelor of arts degree in international studies from The Johns Hopkins University.

Courses Taught

Selected Publications

Congress, Tribal Recognition, and Legislative-Administrative Multiplicity, 91 Indiana Law Journal 955 (2016)

Congress and Indians, 86 University of Colorado Law Review 77 (2015).

Political Failure, Judicial Opportunity: The Supreme Court of Canada and Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, 44 American Review of Canadian Studies 334 (2014) (peer-reviewed).

Jurisdiction and Human Rights Accountability in Indian Country, Michigan State Law Review 355 (2013).

Priceless Property, 29 Georgia State University Law Review 685 (2013).

"Natural Allies: Conservationists, Indian Tribes, and Protecting Native North America," in Sarah Krakoff and Ezra Rosser, Eds., Tribes, Land, and the Environment (2012) (with Robert T. Coulter).

Does Constitutional Change Matter? Canada's Recognition of Aboriginal Title, 22 Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law 449 (2005) (distributed to more than 1,000 practitioners and scholars at the 2010 Federal Bar Association Indian Law Conference).

Note, Towards Tribal Sovereignty and Judicial Efficiency: Ordering the Defenses of Tribal Sovereign Immunity and Exhaustion of Tribal Remedies, 101 Michigan Law Review 569 (2002) (second place, National Native American Law Students Association Annual Writing Competition).


June 13, 2016
Kirsten Matoy Carlson was selected to receive Wayne State University Academy of Scholars' Junior Faculty Award for the 2016-17 academic year. This award is given annually to a select number of junior faculty members who have a significant record of publications or creative achievement and who have achieved national or international recognition very early in their careers.

November 30, 2015
Kirsten Matoy Carlson has been selected to present a paper to the Legislation and Law of the Political Process section at the Association of American Law Schools annual meeting. The paper is entitled, "Gambling on Congress: Indian Nations' Federal Recognition Strategies."

September 22, 2015
Kirsten Matoy Carlson was chosen to present her paper, "Congress, Tribal Recognition, and Legislative-Administrative Multiplicity," at the 2015 Conference on Empirical Legal Studies to be held at Washington University Law School in St. Louis Oct. 30-31. The paper will be published in the Indiana Law Journal in the winter.

February 28, 2014
Kirsten Matoy Carlson has been awarded a $250,000 grant for the university from the National Science Foundation. Carlson will use the grant to conduct a two-year research project - "Legal Mobilization, Rights Claims, and Federal Indian Policy Reforms" - that aims to develop a better understanding of how, when and with what success American Indian nations use the political process to change the law.


May 3, 2013
Kirsten Matoy Carlson is attending the Connect Fulbright Canada Colloquium at the University of California Berkeley on "Issues in Canadian Studies: Views from America" May 8 and 9, and the Early Career Workshop at the Law and Society annual meeting in Boston May 28-June 1.

August 18, 2011
Kirsten Matoy Carlson'sbrief that was submitted on behalf of the Indian Law Resource Center and Sacred Circle National Network to End Violence Against Indian Women in Lenahan (Gonzales) v. United States (Report No. 80/11) was cited by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The decision condemned the United States for its failure to protect women and children from domestic violence.

In The News

June 15, 2016
Kirsten Matoy Carlson was featured in the Detroit Legal News report, "Wayne Law professor to receive WSU Academy of Scholars award."

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March 17, 2014
Kirsten Matoy Carlson is the focus of a feature story in the Legal News titled "Law prof receives grant to study Indian policy reforms."

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March 5, 2014
Kirsten Matoy Carlson is the subject of a Legal News article titled "Wayne Law professor awarded $250,000 National Science Foundation grant."

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February 26, 2014
Kirsten Matoy Carlson was the subject of a report in the Legal News titled "Wayne Law prof awarded $250K research grant."

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