The use of live interactive videoconferencing to provide psychiatric care, telepsychiatry, has particular relevance for improving mental health treatment to rural American Indian reservations. There is little literature on civil commitments in telepsychiatry and none specifically addressing this topic among American Indians. This article reviews telepsychiatry in the mental health care of American Indians, civil commitments and telepsychiatry in general, and the current state of civil commitments in American Indian communities. We conclude by considering commitment through telepsychiatry in rural reservations and offering guidelines to assist practitioners in navigating this challenging landscape. Civil commitments of American Indian patients residing in rural reservations can be successfully accomplished through videoconferencing by thoughtful and informed clinicians. However, much more work is needed in this area, including research into the cultural attitudes and perspectives towards commitments and further inquiry regarding potential legal precedents, as well as case reports and examples of this work. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.