nnaba National Native American Bar Association logo

On Tuesday, I had the pleasure to meet with Mary Smith, lawyer and Immediate Past President of the National Native American Bar Association.

The specific reason we met was to tape a CLE Snippet, “a unique opportunity to hear directly from the author of an article in the upcoming Arizona Attorney Magazine.”

The topic of our conversation: a recent groundbreaking survey of Native American lawyers, available here.

Last April, I attended the annual Indian Law Conference of the Federal Bar Association, held in Scottsdale. There were some terrific panels, but I was particularly interested in a report about the first-ever survey of Native attorneys.

Panelists for April 9, 2015, “Strength in Numbers: Native Attorneys from Pre-Law to Practice,” L to R: Helen B. Padilla, Director, American Indian Law Center, Inc.; Mary L. Smith, Special Counsel and Estate Trust Officer, Office of the Special Deputy Receiver, and then-President, National Native American Bar Association; Dr. Arin Reeves, CEO, President, Nextions; Makalika Naholowaa, Attorney, Microsoft Corporation; and Francine M. Jaramillo, Staff Attorney, American Indian Law Center, Inc. (Photo by Federal Bar Association)

Panelists for April 9, 2015, “Strength in Numbers: Native Attorneys from Pre-Law to Practice,” L to R: Helen B. Padilla, Director, American Indian Law Center, Inc.; Mary L. Smith, Special Counsel and Estate Trust Officer, Office of the Special Deputy Receiver, and then-President, National Native American Bar Association; Dr. Arin Reeves, CEO, President, Nextions; Makalika Naholowaa, Attorney, Microsoft Corporation; and Francine M. Jaramillo, Staff Attorney, American Indian Law Center, Inc. (Photo by Federal Bar Association)

Mary presented on the survey along with a great panel. The early reports about the survey were that it explored subjects that previously have been shared openly too little. The ultimate survey results more than bore that out. At the conference and afterward, I spoke with Mary about sharing a summary of the results in Arizona Attorney. She kindly agreed, and her article is in the September magazine.

When we met, Mary was kind enough to indulge our tradition of a photo:

Attorney Mary Smith and Arizona Attorney Editor Tim Eigo, August 25, 2015.

Attorney Mary Smith and Arizona Attorney Editor Tim Eigo, August 25, 2015.

In my videotaped dialogue with Mary Smith, I mentioned how impressed I was with the survey. Not only was the survey smart and the responses candid; the report also folded in numerous personal stories and compelling sidebars. I recommend the survey to anyone interested in improving the legal profession or in launching and reporting on survey results.

The videotape will be available here after September 1. I hope a few of you get to watch it, as well as the article on the topic in the September Arizona Attorney Magazine.

Stephen L. Pevar, author of The Rights of Indians and Tribes.

Stephen L. Pevar, author of The Rights of Indians and Tribes.

Today I share some news about an upcoming event that touches on Indian law.

The author of a book that explains the complexities of federal Indian law and tribes’ and their members’ relationships with each other and with non-Indians will speak on current legal issues facing Native peoples Aug. 7 at the Heard Museum in Phoenix.

Stephen L. Pevar, the author of the 2012 book The Rights of Indians and Tribes, will speak at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7, in the Monte Vista Room at the museum, 2301 N. Central Ave. Pevar will sign copies of his book, available at $25 per copy following his presentation. Since Aug. 7 is First Friday, evening (6 to 10 p.m.) general admission to the museum—and to Pevar’s talk—is free; a $5 gate fee will be charged to visitors wishing to attend the exhibit Super Heroes: Art! Action! Adventure!

Stephen L Pevar Rights of Indians and Tribes book coverFederal Indian law continues to be a complex subject for lawyers and non-lawyers alike. In his presentation at the Heard, Pevar will touch on several topics discussed in the book, which include the powers of Indian tribes; civil and criminal jurisdiction on Indian reservations; Indian hunting, fishing and water rights; taxation in Indian country; the Indian Civil Rights Act; the Indian Child Welfare Act; and tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians.

Pevar is senior staff counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. He taught a course in federal Indian law at the University of Denver School of Law for 16 years and has lectured extensively on the subject. He is a graduate of Princeton University and the University of Virginia School of Law. He had served for three years as staff attorney for South Dakota Legal Services on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation. Since 1976, he has been a national staff counsel for the ACLU.

Pevar has litigated some 200 federal cases involving constitutional rights, including one case in the U.S. Supreme Court. His areas of specialty include free speech, Indian rights, prisoners’ rights and the separation of church and state.

ASU Canby Lecture Stacy_Leeds

Stacy Leeds

Here is a news item from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU, regarding this Thursday’s William C. Canby, Jr., Lecture.

The article is by the school’s Grant Francis.

Stacy L. Leeds, Dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law, will deliver the Sixth Annual William C. Canby Jr. Lecture on Thursday, Jan. 24, at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. The title of Leeds’ talk is “Whose Sovereignty? Tribal Citizenship, Federal Indian Law, and Globalization.”

The lecture, presented by the Indian Legal Program (ILP) at the College of Law at Arizona State University, is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. in the Great Hall of Armstrong Hall on the Tempe campus. It is free and open to the public, and will be followed by a reception in the Steptoe & Johnson Rotunda. Tickets are available here.

The lecture honors Judge William C. Canby Jr. of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, a founding faculty member of the College of Law. Judge Canby taught the first classes in Indian law there and was instrumental in creating the ILP.

Leeds, the first American Indian woman to serve as dean of a law school, has worked with tribes for more than two decades, interpreting tribal law and serving as a judge for many tribes, including the Cherokee Nation.

“I will discuss how foundational principles of tribal sovereignty developed domestically and how those principles may evolve in the future, including issues of internal and external government accountability, interaction with other nations, and enforcement of tribal rights,” Leeds said.

She said it is important to understand the context in which Native American tribes have defined citizenship in the past in order to predict how it will be defined in the future.

“We are witnessing a global awakening currently with respect to indigenous sovereignty,” Leeds said.

The question is whether tribal sovereignty will be affected by globalization, she said. If this is the case, it could mean a much more complex relationship between the federal government and tribal governments in the future.

ASU Law School logoFor years, the U.S. government has refused to recognize tribal sovereign powers while simultaneously endorsing and supporting similar powers in newly created sovereigns around the globe, Leeds said. However, she noted, we are starting to see positive change as international law plays a greater role within the U.S.

“Enhanced global recognition of tribal government stature is finally being realized to some extent,” Leeds said. “But it will necessarily open tribes up to more internal and external scrutiny, and communities have to be ready for that.”

“We are delighted to welcome Dean Leeds to the College of Law to deliver our Canby Lecture,” said Dean Douglas Sylvester. “Her expertise in tribal sovereignty, as well as her accomplishments in the Native American community and in legal academia, make her an ideal fit for this important program.”

As part of the larger discussion, Leeds said she will touch briefly on the Cherokee Freedman Controversy, a political and tribal dispute between the Cherokee Nation and descendants of the Cherokee Freedmen regarding tribal citizenship. As a judge for the Cherokee Nation, she in 2006 wrote the majority opinion in Allen v. Cherokee Nation Tribal Council that ruled the Freedmen, a group of African-American descendents of former slaves of the Cherokee, were entitled to full citizenship in the tribe.

“Stacy has long been a leader in education and tribal government,” said Robert Clinton, Foundation Professor of Law at the College of Law. “At a time when the Cherokee Freedman controversy was heating up at the Cherokee Nation, her courageous opinion for the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court was widely heralded, although controversial.”

Clinton added that Leeds has been a pioneer as a Native American scholar and author, and her contributions to the field of Indian law are widely respected.

“I am very honored to be a part of this lecture series and to contribute to the world-class work of the Indian Legal Program at ASU,” Leeds said. “The program has a fantastic reputation and a vibrant Indian law curriculum.”

Before arriving at the University of Arkansas, Leeds was Interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Kansas School of Law and director of the Northern Plains Indian Law Center at the University of North Dakota School of Law. She has taught law at the University of Kansas, the University of North Dakota and the University of Wisconsin School of Law.

Leeds was the first woman and youngest person to serve as a Justice on the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court. She teaches, writes and consults in the areas of American Indian law, property, energy and natural resources, economic development, judicial administration and higher education.

This morning we got some news that may still be developing, but it appears that President Barack Obama has indicated that the United States will endorse the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The news came to us from the Indian Law Resource Center. Their press release is below, and more news is available online.

Walter R. Echo-Hawk at ASU Law School, Sept. 27, 2010

In recent months, the U.N. Declaration has been discussed at least twice here in Arizona, at two events I attended at the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. The programs were hosted by the school’s Indian Legal Program, and they featured Robert Yazzie and Walter Echo-Hawk. You can read about them here and here.

An unaffiliated blog post this morning also talks about the President’s promised endorsement. The post is cautious in assessing what the endorsement will mean. President Obama made the announcement during the White House Tribal Leaders Conference.

The blog indicated the following:

Here is the press release from the Indian Law Resource Center:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 15, 2010

Op-Ed: Declaration sets new agenda for US-Indian relations

Robert T. Coulter
Executive Director, Indian Law Resource Center
 www.indianlaw.org

Today, the United States government at last officially endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and joined the international community in recognizing that American Indians and other indigenous peoples have a permanent right to exist as peoples, nations, cultures, and societies.

The United States is the last of the four countries that voted against the UN Declaration to reverse its position.  This endorsement reflects the worldwide acceptance of indigenous peoples and our governments as a permanent part of the world community and the countries where we live.  The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the most significant development in international human rights law in decades.  International human rights law now recognizes the rights of indigenous peoples as peoples, including rights of self-determination, property, and culture.

For me, the United States’ endorsement of the UN Declaration marks the culmination of over three decades of hard work by indigenous peoples and other members of the international human rights community.  In 1976, when the Six Nations and I began the work of drafting and proposing a declaration to be adopted by the United Nations, we did not know that our idea would one day be universally accepted and supported first by indigenous peoples and eventually by the countries of the world.  We knew of the terrible inadequacy of legal regimes and the gross violations of indigenous peoples’ human rights in most countries. We turned to international law primarily because of the need to overcome and improve national laws and practices and because of the desire to regain a place for indigenous peoples in the international community.

Our work to ensure justice for Indian nations in this country begins in earnest with the United States’ endorsement of the UN Declaration.  To see the promise of the Declaration become a reality, we must continue to fight for laws, policies and relationships that take into account the permanent presence of Indian nations in this country, and throughout the world.

The Declaration sets an agenda for the United States and Indian nations to design a reasonable approach to a progressive realization of the duties and responsibilities in it.  It serves as a guide for consultations among Indian and Alaska Native nations and U.S. governmental departments and agencies to improve the government-to-government relationship among Indian and Alaska Native nations and the United States.

In our work for Indian rights, we can and should use the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a powerful affirmation of our rights.  Only through continued use will its provisions become our reality.  We can use the Declaration to evaluate laws that are now on the books and for laws that may be proposed. Does the law measure up to the standards of the Declaration? Does the law or bill satisfy the requirements of the Declaration? It should. And if it does not, then it should be changed or discarded.

The Declaration can also be used as a guide for procedures and processes in dealing with indigenous peoples. Some of the most important rights in the Declaration are the right to participate in the decision-making process and the right to be consulted on important matters relating to indigenous peoples. The rights proclaimed in the Declaration can also be used to defend against proposals and actions that violate Indian rights. The Declaration can be used in this way by all people: Indian leaders, public officials, educators, and others.

The Declaration can also be used to support and advocate for positive legislation and positive government action relating to Indian peoples. In particular, the Declaration can be used as a basis for making demands that the federal government fulfill its responsibilities to tribes and carry out its obligations to promote and respect the human rights of Indian nations and tribes. Congress needs to hold hearings to examine the United States’ human rights obligations to Indians and to assess whether existing laws and policies adequately respect the rights established in international law.

Continuing to work in this way to ensure justice for Indian peoples is the best way to celebrate and honor the United States’ endorsement of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  This is a very important first step in the process.  We thank all of the advocates, leaders and government officials who have made this vision of freedom and equality a reality.

Kevin Gover

Yesterday we received two news items that were three time zones apart, but each says something important about Indian law issues.

The more specific Indian Law analogue was the announcement of an ABA award to Kevin Gover, who is the director of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Pertinent for us, he has Arizona ties and is a longtime law professor at the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

He will receive the 2011 Spirit of Excellence Award, given by the American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession.

More information on the award is here. You can read Gover’s profile, via the ASU Law School, here.

As the ABA says:

“Gover has been a tireless champion for the rights of Native American tribes,” said Fred W. Alvarez, commission chair. “He walked his first picket line as a 10-year-old member of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, and marched as an undergraduate at Princeton University to draw attention to the plight of American Indians.  He rose to become Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs in the United States Department of Interior, responsible for policy and operational oversight of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and overseeing a $2.2 billion budget and supervising 10,000 employees  Since 2007, he has led an institution dedicated to advancing knowledge and understanding of the life, languages, literature, history and arts of the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere. His career has been truly extraordinary.”

“Gover began his career in Indian affairs more than 30 years ago, with his post on the American Indian Policy Review Commission. Shortly after receiving his law degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law, he joined the Indian law division of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver and Kampelman, where he worked exclusively on matters relating to the American Indian community. Gover later formed his own firm, focusing his practice on Indian law, which eventually became one of the largest Indian-owned firms in the country. His work caught the eye of then President Bill Clinton, who appointed Gover to his Department of the Interior post in 1997.”

Charles Calleros

(The Arizona honor continues even further: Also earning the Spirit of Excellence Award is ASU Law Professor Charles Calleros. Congratulations to both.)

The other news item that affects Indian Law issues was the announcement by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer that a vacancy on the Supreme Court would be filled by Robert Brutinel, a judge on the Superior Court for Yavapai County. We reported on that yesterday.

It was Faith Klepper, former chair of the Arizona Attorney Editorial Board, who pointed out (on Facebook) that Judge Brutinel has some experience in Indian law matters.

According to his application for the position (available here at the Supreme Court website, but who knows for how long, now that he’s been named to the Court), he indicates that when he was in private practice he represented an Indian tribe. He goes on to say:

“As a practitioner, I was involved in the drafting of major revisions to the Yavapai–Prescott Indian Tribal Code. I drafted a number of ordinances in various areas of the law for the Tribe.”

Judge Robert Brutinel

The new Justice is highly accomplished in many areas, and has even been honored this year as the Judge of the Year by CASA: Court Appointed Special Advocates.

But having some Indian Law experience could be extremely helpful in Arizona. And it may even have an impact on how law is taught in this state.

As we’ve noted before, a petition submitted to the Arizona Supreme Court to add Indian Law to the state’s bar exam has been tabled for quite some time now.

If the addition of Indian Law will not happen while the Court considers signing on to a broader uniform bar exam, maybe Justice Brutinel will be influential in another area: getting Indian Law added to the training for lawyers admitted on motion, without taking an Arizona bar exam.

After all, a lawyer who has worked on the drafting of an Indian Law Code may be particularly attuned to its value. That, too, would add to a spirit of excellence.