On Feb. 21, the Indian Legal Clinic presented to the Federal Recognition Taskforce at the National Congress of American Indians Executive Winter Session. Professor Patty Ferguson-Bohnee presented on the status of petitions in the Federal Acknowledgment Process. Ashleigh Fixico (3L) presented on guidance for determining eligibility for organization under the Alaska Indian Reorganization Act issued by the Assistance Secretary – Indian Affairs. For more information, review the summary prepared by Fixico.
On Feb. 8, the Indian Legal Clinic (ILC) filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Diné Hataałii Association in Arizona v. Navajo Nation. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on Monday, March 20, 2023. Congratulations to ILC Faculty Director Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, Director Derrick Beetso (’10) and ILP students Clayton Kinsey (2L), Maryam Salazar (2L), Natalia Sells (2L) and Chelsi Tsosie (2L) for their efforts in drafting the brief. We also appreciate Law Fellow Honore Callingham (’18) for her assistance in preparing the brief for filing.
The brief informs the Court on traditional Diné principles that support the Navajo Nation’s position. The team is humbled the Hataałiis, as the stewards of this sacred knowledge, entrusted the Indian Legal Clinic to represent their interest, and hope the brief helps the Court better understand the Navajo Nation’s treaties with the United States and how the Navajo signatories would have understood them.
“As a Diné law student, this case pertains to an issue that affects my family, my home, and my culture,” said Chelsi. “Knowing that and having the opportunity to assist in preparing an amicus brief that conveys the Diné perspective − the way we view the world and natural law around us − to the Court is an experience that will stay with me forever.”
Indian Country's representation
On Jan. 10, the Indian Legal Program hosted a special dinner for students to meet Bryan Newland, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior. A full year of serving in a prominent position, Assistant Secretary Newland leans on his experiences and centers tribal community as part of the strategy. He understands the challenges Tribes face and the importance of ensuring Indigenous People are protected, included and represented at every level, for every decision.
We were also joined by Secretary Newland’s team who share that vision: Rose Petoskey, Joaquin Gallegos, Stephanie Sfiridis (’16), Sam Kohn, Senior-Counselor to the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs and Katherine Isom-Clause, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Economic Development, as well as Shannon Estenoz, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks and Steve Simpson, Senior Attorney with the Solicitor’s Office. ILP students learned about the work the Department of Interior does on behalf of Tribes and how hard each have worked to be in a position where they can drive change.
“Having Assistant Secretary Bryan Newland and his team visit was such an honor,” said 2L Sophie Staires. “What struck me about all of them was the genuine interest they showed in all of us students—who we are, and what we want to do. Talking with them made it easier for me to picture myself in those roles, and I really needed that. Assistant Secretary Newland really impressed upon me that I am right where I need to be, that I am capable and that I will get to where I want to be.”
“It was nice to know that even though law school can be a real challenge sometimes, the opportunities to do great things for Indian Country outweighs that,” said 2L Chelsi Tsosie. “It was quite motivating to relate to someone in a position as high as his.”
Thank you to the Department of the Interior for this special visit. We appreciate all that you do for Indian Country!
Deadline: February 28, 2023
The Indian Law Section is soliciting proposals for articles to be included in the 2023 special Indian Law edition of the Arizona Attorney magazine. The proposal should focus on an issue of interest to those who practice Indian Law.
Either a short or a long article may be proposed. Generally, a long article will be between 2,000 and 2,500 words (in a Microsoft Word document, about 9 to 12 pages including endnotes) and will be about 3 to 4 pages in the magazine. A short article will be approximately 1,500 words and typically will be 2 pages in the magazine.
The proposal should provide the following information: author’s name and contact information (e-mail address, phone number, and name of employer/firm); the subject matter of the article (e.g., ICWA, NAGPRA, Water Rights, Land Use, Tribal Sovereignty, etc.); the anticipated title; and a concise summary of the thesis of the article.
Proposal authors will be notified on whether their proposed article has been accepted by March 10, 2023. The draft of the article for a selected proposal will be due on April 7, 2023. Final drafts of selected articles are due by May 5, 2023.
Past articles from the 2022 Indian Law edition were:
ICWA- The Gold Standard: Golden Nuggets of Evidence from Arizona
By Tara Hubbard & Fred Urbina
Indigenous Erasure in Public Schools: Critical Race Theory, Discriminatory Policies, and Remedies for Students
By Mia Montoya Hammersley, Adriana M. Orman & Wouter Zwart
The Cabazon Decision, 35 Years On
By Glenn M. Feldman
Indian Law From Behind the Bench
By Alexander Mallory (’19)
Oral History on Trial
By Robert Alan Hershey
Student attorneys from the Indian Legal Clinic’s Wills and Probate class recently helped fourteen tribal citizens of the Quechan Indian Tribe with their estate planning needs. Students met with clients one on one to determine each person’s wishes so tailored wills and powers of attorney could be drafted for them. The clients were members of the Quechan Indian Tribe who needed an “Indian will,” which is a will drafted to conform to the American Indian Probate Reforms Act’s requirements for bequeathing trust or restricted land (i.e., allotments).
“Participating in the clinic gave me invaluable experience in drafting wills and building client relationships,” said student attorney Joe Wilwerding (2L). “The wills clinics opened my eyes to the large need for those who know how to draft Indian wills to keep Native lands in the hands of the people to which they belong,” added Courtney Kamauoha (3L).
Collectively, a total of 28 wills and health care powers of attorney were executed during the wills clinic. The student attorneys were supervised by Professor Helen Burtis (’07), and two volunteer attorneys from Rosette, LLP: Jim Palmer (’04) and Daniel Ray.
Last month, the Indian Legal Clinic traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend a hearing that focused on the situation of Indigenous Peoples and forced displacement in the context of climate change in the United States before the Inter American Commission on Human Rights. The request for a hearing was made on behalf of four Louisiana Tribes and the Village of Kivalina.
Student attorneys Ruben Zendejas (3L) and Brittany Habbart (3L) were assigned the case with Professor Patty Ferguson-Bohnee. Working with Earth Rights, the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, and the Georgetown Environmental Law and Justice Clinic, the ILC assisted in preparing a written submission in support of the thematic hearing and preparing witnesses for the hearing. Blair Tarman-Toner (’20) also assisted with the written submission. Ferguson-Bohnee gave the rebuttal statement on behalf of the petitioning Tribes during the Thematic Hearing. While in Washington, ILC students attended a meeting at the White House.
“Ruben and I met different tribal leaders and advocates and learned about their experiences with climate displacement or dealing with the federal recognition process,” said Habbart. “Hearing about issues directly from people who live it or work with it is always invaluable.”
2022 is another year that has seen Arizona Native voters and their rights disproportionally challenged on the ballot. “Native advocates say voter ID rules in Proposition 309 could disenfranchise Arizona Indigenous voters,” said Native Vote fellow Torey Dolan (’19) in her interview with the AZ Central. The article discusses the impact that Proposition 309 will have on Tribal communities if passed. Proposition 309 would limit the forms of identification that are acceptable for in-person voting and would eliminate many forms of Tribal identification that voters currently rely on.
Despite this ballot measure and redistricting issues, the Indian Legal Clinic’s Native Vote Election Protection team organized and strategized with its partners to remain steadfast leading up to Election Day. Dolan presented at the Tribal leaders meeting hosted by the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona and discussed the propositions’ impacts on Tribal communities and Native voters.
Indian Legal Clinic student attorneys Mallory Moore (3L) and Autumn Shone (3L) led and conducted two trainings for volunteers.
This year, 66 volunteers served as Election Protectors stationed at multiple polling locations to assist voters at 9 Tribal communities: the Ak-Chin Indian Community, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, the Gila River Indian Community, the Navajo Nation, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, the San Carlos Apache Tribe, the Tohono O’odham Nation and the White Mountain Apache Tribe.
On Election Day, the Native Vote team worked with the Navajo Nation to assist in emergency litigation due to delays in the opening of a polling location in Many Farms, Arizona. Katherine Belzowski, an attorney with the Navajo Nation Department of Justice Economic and Community Development Unit, said “The Indian Legal Clinic was instrumental to the Navajo Nation’s success in the 2022 Election. ILC worked with the Navajo Department of Justice (NDOJ) to monitor state polling locations across the Nation. With ILC’s assistance NDOJ was able to timely investigate and respond every concern submitted to the ILC and NDOJ voting hotline.”
Thank you to all volunteers, advocates and allies for serving as Election Protectors and organizing the Native Vote power! With your help, we were able to assist voters through the hotline and in the field, ensuring that Native voters were able to cast ballots free from intimidation and without undue challenges. This year’s ILC Native Vote leadership team includes dedicated ILP Native Vote Fellows Torey Dolan (’19) and Blair Tarman-Toner (’20), student attorney leads Mallory Moore (3L) and Autumn Shone (3L), and student attorneys Chad Edwards (3L), Brittany Habbart (3L), Michael LaValley (3L), and Ruben Zendejas (3L), under the supervision of Professor Patty Ferguson-Bohnee.
On Nov. 11, ILP students met with Honorable Judge Diane Humetewa (’93), a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, and her law clerks, including ILP alum Alexander Mallory (’19). Judge Humetewa is a member of the Hopi Tribe and became the first Native American woman to reach a federal bench in 2014. Students learned about her law school experiences, legal career and advocacy work in public service, and her commitment to building inclusion and diversity.
“She encouraged us to approach law school with a positive attitude, and to focus on the bigger picture when things get tough,” said Shandiin Hererra (1L). “This bigger picture focuses on how each of us can be impactful in Indian Country and/or be a strong advocate in spaces where Indigenous attorneys are seldom present.”
Visiting student Kelsey Haake (3L) enjoyed hearing about Judge Humetewa’s background. “While I find law school to be so exhausting and daunting at times, it was really nice to hear that even someone with so much success and an incredible career had moments in law school where they struggled,” said Haake.
During the visit, Judge Humetewa gave the students a tour of her courtroom and chambers.
Judge Humetewa welcomed open questions, genuinely listened and made their presence felt. We appreciate you, Judge Humetewa! Thank you for arranging this meeting and hosting our students.
While at the Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. Courthouse, we ran into ILP grad Zachary Cain (’00). Cain currently serves as a federal public defender.
Navajo Nation Presidential Debate led by Navajo students at ASU Law
On Oct. 22, the W. P. Carey Armstrong Great Hall was filled with tribal citizens eager to hear from the two final candidates running for President of the Navajo Nation: current President Jonathan Nez and Dr. Buu Nygren. Director Derrick Beetso (’10) moderated the proceedings while Navajo students and staff announced the questions submitted by the public.
Outstanding work by our ILP students and staff: Program Coordinator Theresa Beaulieu, Beetso, Shandiin Herrera (1L), ILC Law Fellow Cierra Moore (’22), Natalia Sells (2L), Autumn Shone (3L), Chelsi Tsosie (1L) and Senior Program Coordinator Danielle Williams.
We understand the importance of tribal elections and hosting this event gave Arizona’s urban Navajo voters an opportunity to learn about the candidates and their platforms. The ILP has a special scholarship agreement with the Navajo Nation, which offers full tuition scholarship to Navajo students. Currently we have six Navajo students enrolled at ASU Law. If you know of any prospective Navajo student interested in this awesome scholarship opportunity, reach out to us at email@example.com.
Last week, 17 students – 15 JD, 1 LLM and 1 MLS – in the Indian Legal Program (ILP) spent their fall break in Washington, D.C. for the “Federal Advocacy for the Tribal Client” traveling class. The students attended the week-long class taught by the ILP’s Indian Gaming and Tribal Self-Governance Director Derrick Beetso (’10) at the O’Connor Center. ILP hosted private practice attorneys: Brian Gunn of Powers Law, and Sam Hirsch, Leonard Powell, and Krystalyn Kinsel (’15) of Jenner & Block. Each attorney shared about their work on behalf of tribal clients and offered sage advice to the students. Thank you, Brian, Sam, Leonard, and Krystalyn! Thank you, D.C. ASU Law team – your hospitality and service is appreciated!
The week also included a visit to the Office of the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs, where students received encouragement and reaffirmance of their respective academic endeavors from Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Bryan Newland. They also exchanged questions and comments with Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Energy and Economic Development, Kathryn Isom-Clause; Senior Counselor Stephanie Sfiridis (’16), Senior Advisor Tracy Canard Goodluck and Deputy Solicitor Joel Williams; and Special Assistant Joaquin Gallegos and connected virtually with Rose Petoskey, Senior Counselor. Thank you, AS-IA leadership team!
ILP students then visited the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Committee staff were extremely gracious with their time and their space as a group of bipartisan staffers, including Senior Counsel Breann Nu’uhiwa (LLM ’09), Deputy Staff Director Amber Ebarb, Counsel Connie Tsosie de Haro, Policy Advisors John Simermeyer and Jacqueline Bisillie (MLS ’14), and Staff Assistant Denae Benson, met with students and explained the Committee’s history, the work they do, and their perspectives on what it means to draft and pass laws that further tribal self-governance. The students also learned a lot about the important education the Committee provides across party lines and numerous issue areas through the work they do. Thank you, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs!
The students also enjoyed lunch with Samantha Kelty, Managing Staff Attorney, Morgan Saunders, Staff Attorney, and Denver Jacket, Paralegal, of the Native American Rights Fund’s (NARF) Washington, D.C. office. They learned about the important voting rights litigation, cultural protection, and appellate and Supreme Court briefing work they do. They also learned about the history of the oldest and largest national law firm dedicated to protecting Native rights. Thank you, NARF!
Finally, the students concluded their week with a terrific panel made up of Sun Devil ILP alums Rebecca Ross (’10), Senior Attorney, Indian Resources Section, Department of Justice; Rani Williams (‘18), Legislative Assistant, Congressmember Sharice Davids; and Jens Camp (’21), Associate, Hobbs Straus Dean & Walker, and ILP Advisory Council Member Larry Roberts, General Counsel, Mohegan Tribe. The panel shared career tips, discussed their legal work experience in Washington, D.C., and responded to questions with invaluable advice. Thank you, Larry, Rebecca, Rani, and Jens!