Look around the country and around the world, TU has more than a decade of experience in training lawyers in Indian law, and our graduates can be found from Australia to Washington, DC, and from North Dakota to Texas. They have gone on to work at all levels and in all departments of tribal, state and federal government, as well as in private practice.
And nothing demonstrates the national recognition of our Indian law program more effectively than the fact that other universities are hiring our degree- and certificate-holders to teach Indian law!
This page is still very much a work in progress, as we are gathering information from our alumni. If you are one of our alumni, we'd love to hear from you and post a paragraph here about what you're up to.
In August 2006, Angelique EagleWoman (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate)(LLM 2004) joined the law faculty at Hamline as an Assistant Professor, making her the most recent NALC alum to join the ranks of academia. She teaches Contracts and Native American Law.
Angelique joins Stacy Leeds (JD 1997), Taiawagi Helton (JD 1999) and Michelle Grunsted (LLM 2004) as a full time academic. Leeds was recently tenured as a law professor at the University of Kansas, where she also serves as Director of the Tribal Law and Governance Center. Helton and Grunsted are both faculty at the University of Oklahoma, Helton in the College of Law and Grunsted in the College of Business.
NALC alumni work at all levels and in all departments of tribal government, from Principal Chief to tribal council to attorney general. In addition to Chad "Corntassel" Smith (JD 1980), Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, NALC alumni in tribal government include:
Deanna Hartley-Kelso (JD '93) currently serves as the General Counsel and Administrator for the Legal Division of her tribe, the Chickasaw Nation. She also served as the first Legislative Counsel for that tribe. Between graduation and going to work for her tribe in 1997, Deanna practiced corporate law in Texas. She has also served as the Chair of the Chickasaw Foundation Board of Trustees, a citizen appointee to the Arkansas Riverbed Authority, an adjunct professor at East Central University and a previous volunteer for North Texas Legal Services-American Indian Law Project. Deanna also serves on numerous boards and committees within the Chickasaw Nation, as well as representing the Chickasaw Nation at the United Nations Working Group on the Draft Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in Geneva, Switzerland.
Lisa Impson (JD '01), spent a year after graduation working for Legal Advocates for Indian Country, LLC, before moving to work for her own tribe, the Chickasaw Nation, headquartered in Ada, OK. She chose TU because of its Indian law program and because "I had heard so many wonderful things about the University from TU graduates. The professors were great and I liked the variety of Indian law classes from which to choose."
Jeff Vance (LLM '03) enrolled in the LLM program for a specific purpose: to get the training he needed to land his dream job. His plan was to combine his interest in Indian law with his love of hunting and fishing and find a position with an Alaska Native regional corporation.
During his interview, the Bristol Bay Native Association (BBNA) informed Jeff that his enrollment in the LLM program is what caught their attention. Jeff is now general counsel for the BBNA and finished his LLM thesis from a tiny town in Alaska, in between rounds of fishing and hunting. We're not quite sure what to think of his occasional reports about the bear problem in town!
NALC alumni serve or have served as judges for tribes across the country, including Judge Rusty Brown (JD 2003; LLM candidate) Delaware Tribe; Judge Patrick Moore (LLM 2002) Muscogee (Creek) Nation; Judge Taiawagi Helton (JD 1999) Cheyenne Arapaho; Justice Stacy Leeds (JD 1997) Associate Justice, Cherokee Nation Supreme Court, Chief Justice, Supreme Court for the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, Associate Justice, Court of Appeals for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa; Justice Kyle Haskins (JD 1988) Cherokee Nation Supreme Court; Honorable Charles Tripp (JD 1993) District Judge, Tonkawa Tribe of Oklahoma, Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, Sac & Fox Nation of Missouri, Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, and the Kickapoo Nation in Kansas; Special Judge, Turtle Mountain Chippewa; Chief Justice, Kaw Nation Supreme Court; Judge Marsha Harlan (JD 1999) Osage Nation; Chief Justice Darrell Matlock (JD 1971) Cherokee Nation Supreme Court; Justice Houston Shirley (LLM candidate) Muscogee (Creek) Nation Supreme Court; Justice Larry Oliver (JD 1964) Muscogee (Creek) Nation Supreme Court.
Spotlight on Patrick Moore (LLM 2003)
In his cover letter to the LLM program, Judge Moore said, "I believe the LLM program you are starting at The University of Tulsa College of Law to be the most positive educational endeavor for Native American lawyers ever to be devised." High praise indeed from someone on the tribal court bench for more than 17 years!
Judge Moore enrolled in TU's inaugural LLM class and pursued his degree part-time while continuing to sit on the tribal court bench. In addition to his judicial position, Judge Moore serves on the Intertribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes, as senior partner in the Moore law firm, and was instrumental in the creation of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Indian Law Clinic. He also played a pivotal role in the Nation's success in receiving grants for an Indian law CLE and creating a published tribal court reporter. Judge Moore completed the research track and as his thesis project, he wrote a legal history of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
Other NALC alumni have also taken the path into public service, including Dawn Sturdevant Baum (JD '04), Gloria Estlin (JD '03) and Erynne Holmstrom (JD '02). Baum recently accepted a position with NARF's Washington, DC, office. Estlin, who enrolled in law school after retiring from IBM, now serves as Executive Director of the Ann Patterson Dooley Family Safety Center, a one-stop location where victims and families can quickly and confidentially seek information and resources about domestic violence. Holmstrom, who earned her LLM in Indigenous Peoples Law from the University of Arizona, served as the Director of Legal Services for the Colorado River Indian Tribe after a stint as the Fort Defiance Managing Attorney for DNA-People's Legal Services, Inc. in Window Rock, Arizona.
NALC alumni can be found in private practice throughout the country, working in big firms, small firms, and as solo practitioners. The following are just a sampling of the accomplishments of our graduates:
Charles Tripp (JD '93) and Troy Little Axe (JD '96) put their law degrees to use as the founding partners of Legal Advocates for Indian Country, a firm specializing in Indian law. The vast majority of their clients are Indian, including tribes and tribal entities, as well as individual tribal citizens. The firm has several offices throughout Oklahoma, and recently opened one in Seattle, Washington. The firm has also hired a number of NALC alumni, including Geri Wisner-Foley (JD '03), who just became a partner in the firm, and Lori Guevara (LLM 2003), who was lured away from the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Indian Law Project to open the firm's new Seattle office.
Jared Cawley (JD '03, LLM '04) is currently working as the General Counsel to the Delaware Resource Group of Oklahoma, LLC, a Native American owned Government contracting company. He also continues to work as an attorney for the Busey Law Group focusing on Federal Indian law issues, and American Indian and other minority economic development issues. Additionally he was elected in August of 2005 to a six year term as a Justice on the Sac & Fox Nation Supreme Court. In Jared's words, "Obviously my LLM is serving me well!" The Busey law firm's website can be found at http://www.buseylaw.com.
John Williams (JD '92, LLM candidate) has spent more than a decade working in the energy production field, building relationships between tribal and non-tribal businesses.
Pam Kushmaul (LLM '04) left a career in nursing to attend law school, where she specialized in Indian law. She is currently working as an attorney with the law firm of John D. Wheeler & Associates, which is general counsel for the Mescalero Apache Tribe.
Jeremy Patterson (LLM '03) is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe located in South Dakota and has worked for both the Native American Rights Fund and the Native American Program of Oregon Legal Services, where he primarily focused on issues relating to tribal cultural and natural resource protection. He currently works with Fredericks, Pelcyger, and Hester, a long established law firm specializing in Federal Indian Law issues where he serves as general counsel to tribal governments and individuals located throughout the United States.
Spotlight on Brenda Christie (JD '98)
I applied to The University of Tulsa because I am a Tulsa girl.. . .I always wanted to attend TU! I was active in National NALSA and the local chapter of NALSA. I really appreciated getting the national exposure that TU afforded and getting to attend the Indian Law Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was great to meet so many other Indian scholars. It was even better to find out that our three main instructors (Professors Rice, Royster, and Tatum) were so well respected in this field. Competition through moot court was also something that benefitted me, but at the time I wouldn't have said so because it seemed so hard.
My Indian Law education has made me a little bit of an ICWA know-it-all at the Juvenile Courthouse, here in Tulsa County. I have been appointed on many cases for parents and/or children when ICWA issues are known to be an issue, and I have given more than a few lessons to my colleagues and opposing counsel on ICWA's application. . . .
Power of a Joint Degree
Rusty Brown (JD/MS Geosciences '03; LLM candidate), worked for the Osage Nation as a Natural Resource Specialist before accepting his current position as Policy Analyst for the Sac and Fox Nation.
Jason Roberts (JD/MA Anthropology '98). After graduation, Jason worked briefly for an engineering firm before being hired by the National Park Service. During his two year stint at NPS, Jason worked as the NAGPRA Park Consultant, advising all parks on compliance issues ranging from repatriation to reburial. He also worked on the Kennewick Man case, drafting the documents necessary to hire scientists to perform studies and even accompanying some of the remains around the country as they were flown to various labs. Jason was hired away from the NPS by the Solicitor's Office for the Department of the Interior, where he works as an attorney advisor in the Division of Indian Affairs. He continues to use his anthropology background on issues relating to tribal status and repatriation.
Hollywood to Sundance
The Sundance Film Festival is not usually on the list of places to locate TU law alumni, but that is exactly where you will find Chad Burris, movie producer and owner of an independent film company. A native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, Chad spent a few years in Los Angeles before returning to his home state in 2002. While in LA, he had several acting roles in film and television, but discovered he'd rather be behind the camera than in front of it.
While still in law school, Chad was selected by the Sundance Institute as a member of its Native Fellow Program, which promotes Native American involvement in filmmaking. Through the program, Chad participated in the Sundance Producers Lab and the Sundance Film Festival in 2003 and 2004. At the same time, he produced a short film, Goodnight Irene, which was accepted into the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, as well as the Berlin, Tribeca, and other film festivals around the world.
Since graduating, Chad has continued to expand his company, indion film, which develops and produces feature length narratives and documentaries. He completed promotional videos for the National Indian Monument and Institute, as well as TU's Native American Law Center. indion film has also recently finished shooting a feature length film tentatively entitled Four Sheets to the Wind.
Chad also serves as President of the Oklahoma Territory Film Council and as a director for the nonprofit organization Yuwita, which develops and supports media initiatives that increase cultural understanding and defend equality.