Native Vote Restoration

Big win for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe

The Campaign Legal Center, Osborn Maledon and the Indian Legal Clinic represented the Pascua Yaqui Tribe in a lawsuit to restore the early voting location before the 2020 election. The Pascua Yaqui Tribe recently reached a settlement with Pima County to restore an in-person early voting location on the Pascua Yaqui Reservation. 

The right to vote for Native Americans in Arizona was only secured in 1948, and despite this right on paper, barriers to voting continue to persist and prevent Native American communities from fully participating. One such barrier was the closing of the early voting location on the Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s reservation in 2018 by then Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez. The Pascua Yaqui Tribe has been fighting to restore the site since it was originally closed in 2018 and have used every available tool to have the site restored. 

Now, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s efforts are finally coming to fruition with this settlement agreement, which will restore the in-person early voting location on the reservation and provide voters living on the reservation an opportunity to vote in-person early, safely, and in their community just as other Arizonans have voted across Pima County for the past four years. The settlement agreement also provides for cooperation on voter registration and outreach.  

Student attorneys Aspen Miller (’21), Jens Camp (’21) worked with Professor Ferguson-Bohnee and Native Vote Fellow Torey Dolan (’19) prepare for the preliminary injunction hearing last fall. We have been proud to stand alongside the Campaign Legal Center and Osborn Maledon in representing the Pascua Yaqui Tribe in their fight to protect their right to vote and are glad that the current Pima County Recorder Gabriella Cázares-Kelly recognizes the importance of this site and has worked with the Pascua Yaqui Tribe to reach this agreement.

ILP serving on the NABA-AZ Board

The Native American Bar Association of Arizona (NABA-AZ) recently announced its 2021-2022 board of directors. Congratulations to this year’s ILP leadership: ILP Executive Director Kate Rosier, president; Meredith Gaylord (’19), president-elect; Bartley Harris (’08), treasurer; and Professor Pilar Thomas, secretary. Other ASU ILP board members include Jason Croxton (’10), ILP Faculty Director Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, Simon Goldenberg (’17), Verrin Kewenvoyouma (’04) and Kevin Pooley (’15). 

We appreciate ILP representation on the board!

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Danielle Williams
Program Coordinator Sr, Indian Legal Program, ASU Law

Indian Wills Clinic: Quechan Tribe

Student attorneys enrolled in the Indian Legal Clinic took part in a two-day Wills Clinic with the Quechan Tribe in March. The clinic was designed to provide Quechan allotment owners with wills that conform to the provisions of American Indian Probate Reform Act. Sixteen Quechan allottees were served in the clinic.

During the first day, each student met with four tribal members in one-on-one counseling sessions. That evening, the students drafted the wills with feedback from ILP Professor Helen Burtis (’07), and Rosette, LLP attorneys Simon Gertler (’18) and Jim Palmer (’04). The following day, the students met again with their clients to review the wills to ensure that each person’s wishes were correctly represented in the documents. The clinic culminated with the students walking each client through a signing ceremony in which the will was executed before witnesses and a notary. The entire process between the students and the clients took place remotely via Zoom. 

“With online learning and not seeing as many people in person, it has been hard to stay cause-connected,” said 2L Vinnie Amato, one of the participating students. “Being able to help draft wills for tribal members over Zoom was a great experience because it refocused me on why I joined the Indian Legal Program. I also gained valuable skills I never would have received otherwise.”

Thanks to Professor Burtis for organizing and leading the Wills Clinic, and to attorneys Simon and Jim for their assistance in the drafting process!

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Progress, Power, Purpose

Life in a pandemic has not been easy for any of us but we remain resilient and stand strong. While political changes are shifting with the new Biden-Harris Administration, we recognize history in the making. Congresswoman Deb Haaland is front and center as a reminder of women in their power. In celebrating “Women’s History Month,” we turned to some of the women of the Indian Legal Program to shed light on women legal professionals and advocates in this Progress, Power, Purpose series. Starting with ILP’s powerhouse lady leads, Executive Director Kate Rosier who was recently appointed as Assistant Dean of Institutional Progress at ASU Law and Faculty Director and Indian Legal Clinic Director Patty Ferguson-Bohnee.

In spite of these tumultuous times, ILP’s lady leads have not skipped a beat. In fact, they have greatly expanded and transformed the digital media scene from offering free CLE virtual events (McGirt webinar is still ASU Law’s largest webinar attended) to increased collaborative partnerships. Since the law school reopened its doors to the administration and began offering hybrid courses in August 2020, these lady leads are in their offices every week with their doors open to current and prospective students, and teaching their respective classes. All in the name of good service. 

As a program led by Native women, we want to celebrate our women who are serving their communities, holding seats at the tables of governance, strategizing to secure victories, blazing trails and setting a tone for the generation of Native women to follow. 

Read their stories in the Progress, Power, Purpose series:

  • Kate Rosier, Director and Assistant Dean of Institutional Progress
  • Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, Faculty Director & ILC Director
  • Ann Marie Bledsoe Downes (’94), Professor of Practice and Indian Gaming & Tribal Self-Governance Programs Director
  • Stacy Leeds, Foundation Professor of Law and Leadership
  • Honorable Diane Humetewa (’93), Professor of Practice
  • Helen Burtis (’07), Faculty Associate
  • Breann Swann Nu’uhiwa (’09), Faculty Associate
  • Torey Dolan (’19), Native Vote Fellow
  • Jennifer Giff (’95), Advisory Council
  • April Olson (’06), Advisory Council
  • Nikki Borchardt Campbell (’09), Advisory Council
  • Judith Dworkin (ASU Law ’86),  Advisory Council
  • Maria Dadgar, Advisory Council
  • Claudeen Bates Arthur (’74)
  • Gloria Kindig (’89)
  • Diane Enos (’92)
  • Debra Gee (’94)
  • Doreen Nanibaa McPaul (’01)
  • Lydelle Davies (’02)
  • Diandra Benally (’05)

Stay tuned for more updates to celebrate Women’s History Month.

Note: Photo cover of Kate and Patty were photographed separately with full safety measures and edited post-production.

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Content creator & photo credit: Danielle Williams
Program Coordinator, Indian Legal Program, ASU Law

Progress, Power, Purpose: Patty Ferguson-Bohnee

Women's History Month

In celebrating “Women’s History Month,” we turned to some of the women of the ILP to shed light on Native women legal professionals and advocates in this Progress, Power, Purpose series. Indian Legal Program Faculty Director, Indian Legal Clinic Director and Professor of Law at ASU Law Patty Ferguson-Bohnee is of the Pointe-au-Chien tribe from Louisiana. In addition to teaching, this formidable force is most known for her continued work on the Arizona Native Vote Election Protection Project, which did Indian Country a great service in the 2020 presidential election, moving closer to a democracy that honors and values Native voters. While the pandemic was not an ideal circumstance, Native Vote took to digital media by storm with interviews, trainings, presentations, collaborations and most notably, the newly created Polling Locator Tool. Read more in Arizona Native Vote Changemakers.

When she’s not leading the charge in Native Vote, Patty is preparing students in her Indian Legal Clinic and promoting diversity and inclusion.

Q: What does your current position entail?
A:
I serve as the Director of the Indian Legal Clinic and Faculty Director of the Indian Legal Program at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU.  I am so blessed to be able to work with leading scholars and practitioners in Indian law and Tribal law and motivated students who really care about serving Indian Country.  In the Indian Legal Clinic, the students practice under my bar license.  We work on matters in tribal, state, federal, and international forums.  The cases range from probate, family, criminal and civil litigation, voting rights, code drafting, environment, climate, and status clarification of tribes. My goal is that the students learn useful practical skills and develop a passion for service, while also serving unmet needs for Indian Country.

Q: Were you always interested in this kind of work? 
A: I became interested in law when I participated in mock trial in high school.  However, I became interested in Indian law as an undergraduate student.  I was able to take a Federal Indian Law class as a freshman, and I never looked back. 

Q: What advice do you have for Native American women who want to work in this area? 
A: The sky is the limit!  Although Native American women are the most underrepresented group in the legal profession, Native American women are doing phenomenal work.  Keep in touch with your law school classmates and build a community of support.  Join your local Native American Bar Association and the National Native American Bar Association.   

Q: What is your proudest career moment? 
A: Assisting Four Louisiana Tribes in securing state recognition. 

Q: Is there anything you’ve learned after graduating law school that you wished you learned in class? 
A: Many law students do not learn that there are three sovereigns—the state, the feds, and tribes.  While this might not be harmful in some states, in the southwest, it could lead to malpractice.  It also means that as Native lawyers and practitioners of tribal law and Federal Indian law, we are always teaching—the judges, opposing counsel, co-workers, clients, and others.  At ASU, it is great to have Indian law professors teach first year courses so that they can provide this lens in which to analyze the law.  It makes us all better attorneys and advocates.  Everyone should learn Indian law basics because it transcends all areas of law. 

Q: What is the most valuable lesson you learned in the classroom that has helped you in your career? 
A: I took a few practical courses that served me well. One was environmental litigation, which included drafting briefs and an appellate argument.  The other was mediation clinic, which taught me to listen and provided me tools to help resolve disagreements.   

Q: Who are three Native American women law professionals and/or advocates who should be on our radar right now?

  • Hilary Tompkins: a strong Native American woman, a leader, the first Native American to serve as the Solicitor of the Interior, and someone who has remained humble and genuine.  She is expanding her knowledge base and using this an opportunity to rethink and reframe Indian law issues.  She gave a thoughtful and powerful lecture at last year’s annual Canby Lecture, and I appreciated the time she spent with our students.   
  • Deb Haaland: If confirmed, Deb Haaland will be the first Native American ever appointed to a cabinet position.  Her views on climate change are important to the future of Tribal communities, and the whole country.   
  • Doreen McPaul (’01): Doreen has served in numerous positions – academia, private law firms, tribal in-house counsel, counsel to tribal leadership, and now, Attorney General of the Navajo Nation. Through this journey, she has volunteered, served on numerous boards and bar leadership, speaks on numerous panels, and coordinates educational programs about Indian law and tribal law. She is also the president and founding board member of the Tribal In-House Counsel Association – a much needed forum to support tribal in-house attorneys and advocates. 

Review Patty’s publications:

  • Received the American Bar Association’s 2020 Spirit of Excellence award
  • “How the Native American Vote Continues to be Suppressed” article published in the ABA Vol. 45, No. 1: Voting Rights.
  • Co-authored with James Tucker article “Voting During a Pandemic Vote-By-Mail Challenges for Native Voters”
  • “The History of Indian Voting Rights in Arizona: Overcoming Decades of Voter Suppression” SSRN article
  • “The Impacts of Coastal Erosion on Tribal Cultural Heritage” article published in the SSRN.

Stay tuned for our next Progress, Power, Purpose series.

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Danielle Williams
Program Coordinator, Indian Legal Program, ASU Law

ILC Reflections: Hearty Experiences

Student attorneys are instrumental in the progress and movement of the Indian Legal Clinic. While they work with real clients and real issues, they gain invaluable experience for their law career. 

This has been an interesting year for everyone. In their third and last year in law school, it looks very different from their first year at ASU Law. Dustin Rector (3L) and Blair Tarman (3L) open up about their time in the Indian Legal Clinic and shed light on how this experience has better prepared them.

In his words, Dustin Rector writes:

This year, Native Vote faced a unique challenge through the COVID-19 pandemic. I helped Native Vote navigate the difficulties the pandemic created for our volunteers and helped ensure that the virus remains contained during Election Day activities. In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, a consistent issue I addressed on Election Day were voter registration and provisional ballot issues. Despite these challenges, the moment that stands out to me was having the chance to return to my community in the Fort Apache Reservation and serve other tribal members. 

The reason I chose to participate in the Indian Legal Clinic was because I wanted to apply the things I have been learning in my other classes. Before entering the Indian Legal Clinic, I had a loose understanding of what trial work looked like and I did not know how to use the things I learned in my classes in the real world. The Indian Legal Clinic has helped me learn about trial skills and has helped me become more confident and comfortable in using those skills.

If you want to understand what working in a law firm looks and feels like or if you want to work in a law firm that prioritizes Native issues, then I highly recommend enrolling in the Indian Legal Clinic. I also recommend prioritizing your time and being open to new learning experiences, no matter how challenging it is. Lastly, I would like to remind interested students that it is ok to make mistakes because the Clinic Director is there to guide you at all times. 

In her words, Blair Tarman writes:

This year, I participated as an Election Protection volunteer answering phone calls for the Native Vote Hotline. It is important to protect Native voting rights because the right to vote is a fundamental right guaranteed to every American, and the First People should not be denied their right to make their voices heard. 

I came across several inquiries regarding whether or not there were any transportation services being offered to and from the polls. This goes to show how difficult it can be for voters in tribal communities to travel to their designated polling locations due to lack of personal or public transportation options. Additionally, several callers wanted to know whether it was possible for them to vote online. 

I chose to participate in the Indian Legal Clinic because I wanted to gain practical experience working with real clients. This experience has taught me so much about working with tribal clients and serving tribal communities. I cannot overstate how much I have learned from participating in the Indian Legal Clinic. 

If I could offer any advice to someone considering enrolling in the ILC, it would be this: Do it. The ILC offers a unique opportunity for students to learn by doing. Being personally responsible for  cases and knowing that clients are depending upon you will only render you more motivated to give your best effort. 

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Danielle Williams
Program Coordinator, Indian Legal Program, ASU Law

Arizona Native Vote Changemakers

The Indian Legal Clinic student attorneys, ILP affiliates and volunteers worked on the Arizona Native Vote Election Protection Project (AZNVEP) for months to prepare for the general election on Nov. 3. The number of this year’s Election Protection volunteers made for a great success despite the circumstances! We had 100 volunteers, which is more than in past years, who assisted Native voters at over 60 polling locations in Arizona on Election Day through the Arizona Native Vote Election Protection Project. The ILC team included Native Vote Fellow Torey Dolan (’19) as lead, Brendan Clark (3L), Aspen Miller (3L), Dustin Rector (3L), MacArthur Stant (3L),and Blair Tarman (3L) under the supervision of Professor Patty Ferguson-Bohnee. Student attorneys provided virtual training sessions for volunteers, ran the hotline and interacted with voters on-site.

Through partnerships with the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona (ITCA), the Native American Bar Association of Arizona (NABA-AZ), the Arizona Election Protection Coalition and volunteers, Native Vote served as an important resource for hundreds of Native voters during the 2020 election. Over 250 Native American voters called the Native Vote Election Protection hotline for assistance on Election Day, and many voters called prior to the election to check voter registration and polling locations, and answered questions regarding general election information.  

With the extraordinary commitment from volunteers—ILP students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends—an Election Protection volunteer was on-site and available at the following locations: Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community, Gila River Indian Community, Tohono O’odham Nation, White Mountain Apache, San Carlos Apache, Pascua Yaqui, Yavapai Apache, Yavapai Prescott, Quechan, Cocopah Indian Tribe, Colorado River Indian Tribes, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, and the Ak-Chin Indian Community. 

We thank our ASU community for the support, which released the ASU Now article on election day that highlighted the greater work of Native Vote as well as the innovative Polling Locator Tool created just this year with US Digital Response. Watch the video  to see how this tool was used by Native voters.

Two of our ILC students Miller and Stant who traveled to Hopi and Navajo Nation were highlighted in an Arizona Republic article

Ferguson-Bohnee was quoted in the Center for Public Integrity article and Arizona Republic articles here and here

On Nov. 11, Dolan was interviewed by Native America Calling to give a recap about Native Vote. She was also quoted in The State Press articles here and here

Find more coverage from Ferguson-Bohnee, Dolan and Brian Garcia (’20) in this VICE article, which included Arizona Native Vote assisting with extension hours to a polling site. 

We appreciate our partners and all who volunteered across Indian Country to ensure Arizona’s tribal communities and tribal members had access to the polls!

Pechanga Wills Clinic

Student Attorneys Serving Tribes

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Jens Camp (3L) remotely counsels an estate planning client via Zoom during the October Indian Wills Clinic with the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians.

As part of broader efforts to help tribal communities address COVID-19 implications, Indian Legal Clinic students increased estate planning assistance in Indian Country. Students met  remotely with 14 members of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians on drafting estate planning documents in October.

Nineteen wills, financial powers of attorney, and health care powers of attorney were executed during the project. The clients were grateful for the students’ “hard work, attention to detail, and graciousness,” said Robyn Delfino, Tribal Treasurer of the Pechanga Band, who managed administration of the program.

“We are thankful our students have the opportunity to bring this important service to the citizenry of the Pechanga Band,” said Professor Helen Burtis (’07). “These estate planning clinics give students unparalleled opportunities to counsel clients and learn the intricacies of drafting wills that conform with the American Indian Probate Reform Act.”

Students who participated are Mariah Black Bird (3L), Jens Camp (3L), Brendon Clark (3L), Aspen Miller (3L), Dustin Rector (3L) and MacArthur Stant (3L). They were supervised by Michele Fahley, Deputy General Counsel of the Pechanga Band, Mark Vezzola, Directing Attorney of the Escondido California Indian Legal Services, and Burtis.

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Helen Burtis (’07)
Faculty Associate, Indian Legal Program, ASU Law