Student Reflections

Reflections: 9th Annual Tribal Leadership Conference, Transitions

Reflections: 9th Annual Tribal Leadership Conference, Transitions

I attended the 9th Annual Tribal Leadership Conference, Transitions, held from September 25-26, 2018 at the Pueblo of Isleta. This conference is held by the American Indian Law Center each year, and on September 26th I attended a conference session titled “Native Vote: Strategies for Increasing Native Voter Turnout”. Within this session, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, New Mexico Secretary of State and Leon K. Reval, Councilman of the Jicarilla Apache Nation discussed the importance of the “Native Vote” and ways to increase Native American voter registration and participation within the state.

The session revealed the ongoing long-term relationship that Maggie Tolouse Oliver, as Secretary of State, continues to foster with tribal nations within New Mexico in order to address barriers to voting. This is achieved through the Native American Voting Taskforce, a group composed of tribal members that make recommendations to the Secretary of State on Native American voting issues. Leon K. Reval is a member of this task force.[1] During the session, Tolouse Oliver referenced to the fact that although Native Americans in New Mexico were given the right to vote in 1948, structural barriers still existed through the 1980s, until the Department of Justice intervened in order to provide more access to polling areas. Tolouse Oliver intentionally did not answer a question of why voting is important, alluding to the fact that she is not a member of a tribal nation. Instead she emphasized the importance of the task force because it allowed individuals from tribal communities to have a voice in what the state can do to help increase Native American voter participation.

Leon K. Reval agreed with the Secretary of State and then spoke at length about the difficulties tribal members face in coming out to vote. He encouraged those attending the session to continue to have conversations about politics with family and friends, because he believes a change within a generation to be possible. Reval was also optimistic about future changes in voting, seeing technology as a tool to educate the youth everywhere. I agree with Reval’s optimism and look forward to increased Native American voter participation in the very near future.


[1] Native American Voting Task Force, (last visited Oct. 7, 2018).

Jordan Oglesby is a member of the Navajo Nation (Diné) and second year law student. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of New Mexico and is now pursuing her Certificate in Indian Law.



By Tribal Law Journal Blog

The Tribal Law Journal was established in fall 1998 for the purpose of promoting indigenous self-determination by facilitating discussion of the internal law of the world’s indigenous nations. The internal law of indigenous nations encompasses traditional law, western law adopted by indigenous nations, and a blend of western and indigenous law. Underscoring this purpose is the recognition that traditional law is a source of law.

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