NABA-AZ Native American Bar Association of Arizona  banquet brochures

I am working hard this week to catch up with a few great events I recently attended. Each reminded me how vibrant and healthy Arizona’s legal community is—if we could only take the time to look.

Way back on September 27, I had the privilege to attend the annual Native American Bar Association of Arizona Seven Generations Dinner, held at the Radission Fort McDowell Resort. As always, organizers took the time to recognize leading lights in their midst:

  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Robert Clinton, Foundation Professor of Law, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU
  • Community Award: Hon. Diane Enos, President, Salt River–Pima Maricopa Indian Community
  • Member of the Year: Diandra D. Benally, Assistant General Counsel, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation
NABA-AZ 2014 award winners (L to R): Diandra Benally, Robert Clinton, Diane Enos

NABA-AZ 2014 award winners (L to R): Diandra Benally, Robert Clinton, Diane Enos

When he spoke, Robert Clinton admired the fact that “the cadre of Native scholars has grown.” He compared the current day with four decades ago, and was clear in his larger goal: to have Indian country represented by Native attorneys. “Today,” he said, “there is a large cohort of talented, trained Native lawyers.” Nationwide, he said, there are more than 3,000 Native American attorneys.

Diane Enos, the 23rd President of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, told attendees that “Most people I know went into the practice of law because they believed in service.”

Her own service goes back decades. The onetime reporter covered the community for the Scottsdale Progress. She described the steps taken by her tribe to keep secret their decision-making about the then-planned Pima Freeway. The memory of that opacity frustrates her to this day.

“Our people have the right to know what’s going on in their own government, to have a say in what happens.”

Her interest in transparent process led Enos to law school. While there, she ran for a tribal council position as a second-year law student, ultimately being elected to four terms.

You have to act,” she said, “or else who will act?”

Finally, Enos reminded listeners what’s most vital to communities.

“The right of self-representation and dignity are most important. We are all just a part of this whole stream of giving.”

Sculpture from the NABA-AZ annual event

Sculpture from the NABA-AZ annual event (click to enlarge)

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