TLJ Alumni Spotlights

Tribal Law Journal Alumni Spotlight: Heidi Todacheene

Heidi Todacheene is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. She is from Farmington, New Mexico and a graduate of the University of New Mexico, earning her J.D. from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 2015. She served on the Tribal Law Journal Editorial Board and Staff from 2013-2014 and as a Professional Article Editor from 2014-2015. Ms. Todacheene published her Article, She Saves Us from Monsters: The Navajo Creation Story and Modern Tribal Justice, in Volume 15 of the Tribal Law Journal.[1]

Ms. Todacheene previously worked for the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department in Santa Fe and practiced civil litigation before moving to D.C. to work on government and legislative affairs for the Navajo Nation. She currently serves as Legislative Assistant to Congresswoman Deb Haaland.[2]

1. How has the Tribal Law Journal (TLJ) been useful in your career?

It helped me with editing skills I would not have had before. It also exposed me to different issues that I would not have known before. Being on the Board and helping to participate in different events was helpful for myself and anyone who is looking to go into any clerkship or intensive writing jobs in general.

2. Why did you decide to join the Tribal Law Journal?

I wanted to get some editing skills, to have credentials on my resume. It allowed different types of opportunities. Since my interest area is Indian law, and the larger policy area, with that and my enjoyment of writing, I joined the Tribal Law Journal to be able to work on issues with a good group of people.

3. What did you learn from the Tribal Law Journal?

I learned from the Tribal Law Journal that it really helps – law school can be a little isolating because everyone is doing their ‘own thing’ during 2L and 3L year. TLJ was helpful to learn to work in a group, trying to manage that and building relationships. It exposes you to that especially working with the Board.

4. What advice would you give to students interested in, or already involved with, the Tribal Law Journal?

One piece of advice would be to take the citation assignments seriously. It helped me throughout my career and even with other issues. Knowing The Bluebook and how it works helps a lot, so make sure to take them seriously because they benefit you in the long run.

5. What was your favorite memory serving as a Tribal Law Journal Staff and Editor?

Working on my own, on my published article, was really hard work. Working with some of the people that I still talk to today, building relationships and meeting new students you wouldn’t have met before was really great.

Also, working on the State-Tribal Judicial Consortium was amazing. I was able to see state and tribal judges working together with issues like ICWA [Indian Child Welfare Act] and adoption, which is a really unique relationship you don’t see anywhere else. That experience helped me get acclimated to key policy makers on Indian law and was really helpful.

6. Why do you think it’s important that a journal such as the Tribal Law Journal exists?

It’s important, especially in New Mexico, to highlight Native issues. A lot of people don’t understand that Indian law is its own section of law. A lot of people don’t understand sovereign issues. It’s important to provide knowledge on nuanced issues. For UNM Law to have such a journal is a key indicator of its importance with tribes. The relationship between tribes [and New Mexico] is reflective of how the state treats Indian Country issues in general. Many people stay in the state, and even If they work on federal issues later, having those relationships in New Mexico is important.

Heidi Todacheene was interviewed by Tribal Law Journal Co-Editor in Chief Jordan Oglesby. Jordan Oglesby is a proud member of the Navajo Nation and a 3L at UNM School of Law, pursuing her Indian Law Certificate. She interned the Office of Congresswoman Deb Haaland in the summer of 2019 and has previously served as Teaching Assistant for the Pre-Law Summer Institute through the American Indian Law Center. Jordan looks forward to serving Indian Country after graduating in May 2020. 

[1] Volume 15: 2014-2015, Tribal Law Journal, (last visited Nov. 1, 2019).

[2] WHM19 Congressional Staff Spotlights, Medium, (last visited Nov. 1, 2019).


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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