April 9 - 12, 2014
Santa Fe, NM
...to me, there is no higher calling in the legal profession
than protecting rights guaranteed by our laws and Constitution,
and no more important institution in which to engage in those efforts
than the U.S. Department of Justice. It has been my privilege to
have worked at the Department to safeguard the rights of minority
individuals and Indian tribes for more than a quarter of a century,
first in the Civil Rights Division, and now in the Office of Tribal
In February of 2008, I joined the Office of Tribal Justice (OTJ) as Deputy Director. OTJ is the primary point of contact for the Department of Justice with federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes, and advises the Department and other Executive Branch agencies on legal and policy matters pertaining to Native Americans. As an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, one of the reasons I love working at OTJ is the wealth of opportunities it provides to educate people about American Indians and Alaska Natives, Indian tribes, American history, and Federal Indian law and policy. Those people include important decision makers not only in the Department, but also in other Federal agencies, and in Congress.
Prior to joining OTJ, I worked in the Civil Rights Division, where I served as a Tribal Attorney in the Educational Opportunities Section for three and half years and then transferred to the Voting Section. My favorite experience in the Civil Rights Division was litigating cases under the Voting Rights Act. As the Supreme Court has observed, the right to vote is our most fundamental right, as it is the right through which we preserve all our other rights. My efforts have helped empower minority citizens across the country, from Latinos in Los Angeles County, which then had a population the size of three Congressional Districts, to American Indians in a North Dakota school district so small, the development of a remedy for the vote dilution occasioned by the method of election was aided by a door–to–door census. At the time I left the Voting Section, I was a Special Litigation Counsel. My responsibilities included running the Division’s election monitoring program and supervising case development and litigation.
After graduating from Georgetown University Law Center, I worked for a time in private practice, and prior to that I worked for seven years in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Working at OTJ is a dream job, especially now, when Executive Branch commitment to working collaboratively with Indian Nations on issues critical to Indian country is at an all time high.