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Commentary Events Student Reflections

Opinion: Federal Bar Association’s Indian Law Conference

The Federal Bar Association’s Indian Law Conference took place from April 5-6, 2018 at the Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. This year, the Federal Bar Association celebrated its 43rd Annual Indian Law Conference. The theme of this year’s Indian Law Conference was the examination of how tribal nations can use existing and new tools to effectively protect and secure their futures. In addition, 2018 marked the 40th anniversary of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), the 30th anniversary for the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), and 50th anniversary of the Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA).

The annual Indian Law Conference covers many areas of law that are most relevant and controversial in Indian Country. Among the areas of law covered, the conference highlighted the three anniversary statutes by addressing them as part of their plenary line up, such as: “30 Years Later: IGRA and Economic Development,” “The Indian Civil Rights Act at 50: The Intersection of Individual Civil Rights, Human Rights, and Tribal Sovereignty,” and “40 years later: ICWA and the Role of Tribal Courts.” Each session was not only insightful, but compelling. The “IGRA and Economic Development” illustrated the personal relationships between the head of the National Indian Gaming Commission and tribal leaders. Del Laverdure shared an entertaining anecdote about a hostile meeting he had with a tribal leader, where the tribal leader was so frustrated and angry that he had to shout his demands at Del. Only after the meeting, the tribal leader approached Del and apologized as if it was another day at the office. Del had shared with the audience that he understood where the tribal leader was coming from. Just like Del had tribal leaders to answer to, the tribal leader had his people to answer to. In the same plenary, Larry Roberts presented IGRA facts that was compelling. Since the enactment of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the Indian communities that have adopted Indian gaming in their areas, have exponentially increased their employment rate, revenues, and overall economies. The Indian gaming industry is now worth more than thirty-one billion dollars.

The Fed Bar Indian Law Conference attracts hundreds of legal professionals and law school students from around the country. Thus, it creates an opportunity for many legal professionals and law students to network and exchange information. It is not uncommon for students to meet with potential employers and for legal professions to develop a working relationship with other tribes or firms. This would be one of the most attractive features of the conference.

In addition, the National Native American Law Student Association (NNALSA) uses the annual Indian Law Conference as a platform to network, meet, and hold elections for its board. NNALSA hosts informational panels for their members to meet practicing attorneys and network with other law students.

Overall, the Fed Bar conference was a great experience because it provided insightful panel discussions, excellent networking opportunities, and a good platform for NNALSA to have its annual meeting.

During the Conference, it was also announced that it will be returning to Albuquerque, New Mexico for the 2019 Conference! We look forward to seeing all of the Indian law attorneys present in TLJ’s home city!

By Lyman Paul

Lyman Paul is a 2L students at UNM School of Law. He is from the Navajo Nation (Diné). He is of the Sleeping Rock People Clan (Tsenabił nii) and born for the Bitter Water Clan (Tódich’ii’nii). He is from Pine Hill, New Mexico on the Ramah Navajo Chapter, near Ramah, NM. He has a Bachelor of Science in Engineering in Civil Engineering from the Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona.

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Commentary Events ICRA Symposium Indigenous Law Opinion

Reflections: FedBar Indian Law Conference and ICRA Symposium

I attended the Federal Bar Association Annual Indian Law Conference. At the dinner reception, I was placed next a woman tribal leader. During our conversation, she asked where I was from and, when she found out that I attend UNM School of Law, if I had attended the 50th ICRA symposium. We then began a deep conversation about tribal membership. I think it is interesting that people outside of tribal communities ask me, how much Indian I am. I feel strange replying that I am full-blooded. To me the status of being full-blooded is not as significant as to who my clans are and who I am related to. The tribal leader and I lamented over how difficult it is to change the idea of blood quantum. It is understandable most changes to our tribes’ internal self-determination has created more challenges and limited our ability to enact our inherent sovereignty. The issue of blood quantum even affects issues of health. Some Navajo children living on the Navajo Nation do not qualify for Indian Health Services (IHS) because they do not meet the eligible blood quantum levels. To enroll for IHS services, an individual is required to present a Certificate of Indian Blood. This leaves a population of non-member reservation residents that do not have access to health services. Having a lack of access to resources creates gaps and vulnerable populations. Asking for change is a challenge but it is necessary.

By Ernestine Chaco, Staff

Ernestine is Diné (Navajo) from Tsé’íí’ahi (Standing Rock), N.M. She attended University of California-Davis School of Medicine and plans to be an emergency medicine physician. During her 4th year of medical school, she took a leave of absence to pursue her passion of understanding the intersection between Federal Indian Law and health issues at UNM School of Law. She is currently a second-year law student.  Ernestine holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from Swarthmore College and a Master’s Degree in Medical Sciences from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

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Events ICRA Symposium Student Reflections

Reflections on the ICRA Symposium

I was the timekeeper for the “Indigenous Civil, Cultural, Political, and Human Rights: E/Merging Issues” panel hosted by Prof. Christine Zuni-Cruz.  I did not know what to expect, truthfully, but I can say that by the time the panel discussion was over, I was a bit shaken.  Each speaker spoke of the profound effects both the laws of the dominant society and how the inner-tribal laws often fail the most vulnerable of the tribal societies. Every time I had to raise the timekeeping cards, I felt as though I was now also part of the short-changing mechanism.  I also started thinking about why none of these issues ever get any real discussion or coverage? I am not sure how these issues are best resolved but talking about them is a start. My dream would be for the TLJ to be a contributor in turning the dialogue into real solutions.

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By Kaythee Hlaing

Kaythee Hlaing was born in Rangoon, Burma and came to the United States in 2002.  She attend  Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY and received her Bachelor’s in Political Studies in 2006.  Prior to attending law school, she worked as an Associate at a mutual fund in Santa Fe, NM, while also obtaining a Masters degree in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College.​  Kaythee’s interests include: dogs, books, learning new languages, and stewardship of natural resources.

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Events

Indian Blood: A Presentation

On November 8, 2017 the UNM Native American Law Student Association, in collaboration with the State Bar of New Mexico Indian Law Section, hosted a lecture titled “Indian Blood.”  The event–covering a very important and often controversial issue–received overwhelming attention throughout the state and beyond.  The lecture was well attended, filling the largest UNM Law School lecture hall to capacity.   Tribal leaders, tribal members, UNM School of Law students and alumni, and many interested community members gathered for an evening of education and dinner.  The speakers covered topics including the history of blood quantum in Indian communities, the effects of blood quantum on individual identity and belonging within a tribal community, and the impacts on a community divided by opposing viewpoints.

In order to set the stage for such a controversial and often emotion topic, the lecture began with a prayer by Governor Benavidez from Pueblo of Isleta, and a prayer was also offered by Chad Abeita (2L UNM School of Law Student – Navajo) before the meal.

Audience members, all affected in their own way by Indian Blood and blood quantum issues appeared to be grateful to listen and learn from some of the experts in the field and to hear how one community member experienced blood quantum membership changes first hand.

If you would like to view a recording of the event, please follow this link: https://lawmedia.unm.edu/public/special_events/Indian_Blood/

By Roshanna Toya

Roshanna Toya is from Pueblo of Isleta.  She is a second-year student at UNM School of Law pursuing a juris doctorate and a certificate in Indian Law.

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Commentary

Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women Vigil

Community members gathered on a chilly fall day to honor the lives of the many indigenous women who have been murdered or gone missing. On October 27, 2017, indigenous women from four local organizations (First Nations Community Healthsource, Planned Parenthood, Albuquerque Indian Health Board, and Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women) held a vigil in remembrance of those lost and to promote healing.

The event held at the New Mexico Veterans Memorial included prayers, a drumming circle, candles, poetry, and tribal songs. In addition, attendees were encouraged to bring a single earring to represent the Missing/Murdered Indigenous Women. There were guest speakers and audience volunteers that spoke about their experiences with violence. One of the speakers,  a transgender woman, spoke of the heightened risk of violence faced by the indigenous LGBT community. Debra Haaland, former New Mexico Democratic Party chair and current Congressional candidate, spoke of the gaps between tribal and federal law enforcement which have played a role in exacerbating the issue of violence.

By Verenice Peregrino

Verenice is a 2L at UNM School of Law. She is the Vice President of the Mexican American Law Student Association (MALSA) and hopes to go into education law.

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Events

Remembering Those Who Took Note – Celebrating “Pueblo Designs: The Rain Bird”

On October 1, 2017, the Museum of Indian Art and Culture in Santa Fe, hosted a presentation of the Tom Lea and H.P. Mera’s book, Pueblo Designs: The Rain Bird (Rain Bird). The presentation was part of the Tom Lea Institute’s annual recognition of Lea’s work.  The presentation was led by Kathy Flynn, founder of the New Deal Preservation Association, and Dody Fugate, retired Assistant Curator of the Museum of Indian Art and Culture.

Rain Bird, was a product of collaboration between Mera, the then Curator of Archaeology at the Laboratory of Anthropology in Santa Fe, and Lea, an artist working with the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) program.  Rain Bird depicts 176 illustrations of the Rain Bird motifs found on pottery from the Zuni, Acoma, and Tesuque Pueblos.  While the book itself follows the evolution of the Rain Bird design over space and time, it is also indicative of the rising interest in and the preservation of native art forms by the Anglo culture.

In the 1930s, artists flocked into New Mexico under the New Deal’s WPA art and art preservation programs.  This made Santa Fe aThis precipitated a movement to preserve the art form, including Rain Bird motifs.  In Rain Bird, Lea illustrated the motifs found on the Pueblo pottery and Mera provided the commentary describing the significance of each motif.  Today, a significant number of the pottery pieces immortalized in Rain Bird, survive and can be seen in various museums around Santa Fe.  Ironically, no one knows where the original Lea illustrations are today.

By Kaythee Hlaing

Kaythee Hlaing was born in Rangoon, Burma and came to the United States in 2002.  She attend  Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY and received her Bachelor’s in Political Studies in 2006.  Prior to attending law school, she worked as an Associate at a mutual fund in Santa Fe, NM, while also obtaining a Masters degree in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College.​  Kaythee’s interests include: dogs, books, learning new languages, and stewardship of natural resources.

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News

Symposium Issue on the Indian Civil Rights Act (1968-2018) – Call for Papers

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