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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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Student Reflections

Taking Time for Diversity

I took a trip through the Pueblo of Isleta today on my way to a meeting. I was amazed at how much I have forgotten – the beauty and uniqueness of the pueblo, the strength of the people who live there and have lived there for so long, and the richness of the history and culture which are so easily overlooked. It is easy to get caught in our own world and forget that there is a vast world out there which is full of different types of people. In so many ways, we are all so different. Yet there are also a multitude of ways in which we are the same. It is worth learning about other cultures, especially as an American learning about the first Americans who were and are so resilient.

There are regularly events around us that will help us to understand the cultures that surround us, if only we are willing to step out of our box and experience them. It is only by first-hand experience that we can truly learn what lies in our hearts and in the hearts of those around us. We can read about culture all day, but only by immersion can we truly understand the importance of the cultures that surround us. So, I encourage you to step out of your box and experience something new. Go to a feast day. Go to a dance at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Visit a historical site or a pueblo that offers tours and explanations of their history. It is well worth the trip.

Culture and the Universe

BY SIMON J. ORTIZ

Two nights ago
in the canyon darkness,
only the half-moon and stars,
only mere men.
Prayer, faith, love,
existence.

We are measured
by vastness beyond ourselves.
Dark is light.
Stone is rising.

I don’t know
if humankind understands
culture: the act
of being human
is not easy knowledge.

With painted wooden sticks
and feathers, we journey
into the canyon toward stone,
a massive presence
in midwinter.

We stop.
Lean into me.
The universe
sings in quiet meditation.

We are wordless:
I am in you.

Without knowing why
culture needs our knowledge,
we are one self in the canyon.
And the stone wall
I lean upon spins me
wordless and silent
to the reach of stars
and to the heavens within.

It’s not humankind after all
nor is it culture
that limits us.
It is the vastness
we do not enter.
It is the stars
we do not let own us.[1]

By Cari Neill

Cari Neill is a 3L at the University of New Mexico School of Law.


[1] Simon Ortiz, “Culture and the Universe” from Out There Somewhere. Copyright © 2002 by Simon Ortiz. Reprinted by permission of University of Arizona Press.