ICYMI: NALSA Students Excel in Nation’s Capital

Sept. 29, 2016


Great work students did over the summer interning at places like the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, the Department of the Interior, and the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Our monthly newsletter highlights upcoming events and all the great work of our students, alumni, and faculty.

NALSA Students Excel in Nation’s Capital

It was an eventful summer for members of the Native American Law Students Association (NALSA) at Arizona Law. Students were hard at work putting their law school training into practice while gaining practical experiences working with federal agencies in Washington D.C., tribal governments, and leading financial and public interest law firms. Here are some of the internships and law-related positions our students landed over the summer.

Francisco Olea (Pascua Yaqui Tribe)
Returning second year law student Francisco Olea worked in Washington, D.C. at the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), the agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) responsible for regulating tribal gaming. Francisco handled the review of gaming ordinances, analyzed pending legislation that could affect tribal gaming, and drafted memoranda summarizing cases and recently resolved litigation involving tribal gaming and either the DOI or the NIGC.

His experience working in Washington, D.C., “was enlightening and an amazing opportunity; however, there is nothing I am happier to do than return to my community and apply my legal skills to work that directly impacts my tribe and makes a difference in my community."

At the end of July, Francisco flew home to work for the Office of the Attorney General for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe on the Tribal Access Program (TAP). TAP is an important pilot project in which 10 tribes nationwide are being granted direct access to information contained in federal criminal justice databases. The program also grants access to warrants and convictions issued by Pascua Yaqui courts to outside law enforcement officers and courts. This project will greatly increase collaboration between tribal, state, and federal law enforcement and will increase tribal communities’ access to justice.

Mia Hammersley (Ysleta del Sur Pueblo)
Mia Hammersley was a summer law clerk with Advocates for the West, a public interest environmental law firm in Boise, Idaho. She worked on issues such as Clean Water Act violations, challenging oil and gas leases, and compliance with the Endangered Species Act involving endangered anadromous fish species like salmon and trout.

Mia said that her summer clerkship “was an amazing experience. As a small, public interest firm, I had the opportunity to address and research challenging legal issues that I may not have been exposed to at a larger firm. I came to law school to practice environmental law, and now I know more about my job opportunities in the public interest sector and how it overlaps with tribal law and policy."

Matthew Thompson (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate)
Matthew Thompson had what he describes as a "fantastic summer" experience learning about tribal finance and corporate transactions at Faegre Baker Daniels LLP in Minneapolis, Minnesota under the leadership of    tribal financial experts such as Kyle Luebke, Veronica Mason, and Allison Bure.

“The highlight of my summer was working under the leadership of Mr. Luebke and his tribal and corporate finance team, where I gained phenomenal insight in the field of tribal and corporate transactions. This experience would not have been possible without the remarkable support and encouragement of Professor Robert A. Williams, Jr. and the team at the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy (IPLP) Program.”

Jacob Metoxen (Oneida Tribe Of Indians Of Wisconsin)
Second year law student Jacob Metoxen was one of 12 students selected nationally for the prestigious Udall Foundation 2016 Native American Congressional Interns. This intensive 10-week internship program is funded by our partners at the Native Nations Institute here at the University of Arizona. The program selects American Indian and Alaska Native students who exhibit a commitment to careers in tribal public policy and provides them with practical experience in the formulation of public policy.

Since the program’s inception in 1996, 245 Native students from 115 tribes have participated in the internship. During Jacob’s internship he worked with the Department of the Interior, Office of the Assistant Secretary, working on a wide-range of departmental policies and initiatives affecting tribal communities. He even got the chance to meet Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

Daune Cardenas (Pascua Yaqui Tribe)
This summer Daune Cardenas worked for the Attorney General of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, where she created a database to collect information related to ICWA cases. Daune used the data to demonstrate challenges and accomplishments that the Pascua Yaqui Tribe has experienced in preventing the breakup of Native families. The database allowed her to analyze outcomes and trends in order to make recommendations to address barriers to Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) compliance and prevent the unnecessary breakup of Native families. This repository of information will inform tribal governments, federal agencies, the public, and advocates across Indian Country on the direct effects of ICWA and provide much needed data related to ICWA cases.

During Daune’s summer experience she also sat in on meetings with U.S. Department of Justice officials, watched a Violence Against Women Act case in its final stages when the jury was announcing their verdict, and attended meetings on the User Feedback Phase of the Department of Justice’s Tribal Access Program for National Crime Information. Daune says she is “extremely grateful for the educational opportunities and mentorship the staff at the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and Attorney General Alfred Urbina provided me. With the help of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe I was able to learn so many aspects of federal Indian law with a hands on approach. The excitement of federal Indian law and watching the transformation in our ICWA database occur so quickly was the most amazing part of my summer.”

The collaboration between Attorney General Urbina, another IPLP JD graduate from 2008, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, and our IPLP students supports efforts to increase access to justice for tribal communities throughout the United States and the world. The Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s leadership in Native nation building provides IPLP students with unique learning opportunities from leading legal practitioners in the field on the frontlines of progressive change and expanded self-determination in Indian Country.

Peter Sabori (Gila River and Hopi)
Peter Sabori spent his summer in Phoenix, Arizona as a law clerk with the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Arizona. Peter worked on a range of projects, from drafting a response to a defense objection involving federal sentencing guidelines, to researching and drafting a motion for in- camera inspection of witness statements. Peter also worked with staff from the Indian Country & Violent Crimes Section, the prosecution team with a focus on violent crimes that occur in Indian Country, investigating sexual assault injuries suffered by Native American children, evaluating evidence in an involuntary manslaughter charge, and observing an entire federal trial for a case involving the sexual assault of a tribal youth.

After completing his clerkship Peter was thankful to the staff at the U.S. Attorney’s office, saying "Kwa-kwai to the wonderful individuals at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona for giving me this amazing opportunity. It was a privilege to work alongside such talented individuals committed to justice for survivors and their families. I look forward to contributing to future collaborations between Indian communities and the Department of Justice."
Peter even got the chance to meet U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch (pictured above).

Michelle Cox
Over the summer Michelle Cox worked for Professor Williams editing the new edition of Cases and Materials on Federal Indian Law, summarizing law review articles and researching international and American law and policy, including the U.N. and the Doctrine of Discovery. The summer fellowship was a great chance for Michelle to refresh all the concepts she learned in Federal Indian Law and to expand her knowledge of international law. “Doing this research for Professor Williams showed me just how entrenched the doctrine of discovery is in international law. I gained a lot of valuable research skills, and I am confident that I can find nearly anything given enough time.”

Lisa Wrazidlo (Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa)
This summer Lisa Wrazidlo interned with the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of the Solicitor, Division of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C. She worked on projects related to civil jurisdiction in tribal courts, delegations of Secretarial authority, ICWA, Native Hawaiians, and the standards of care in Bureau of Indian Affairs’ jails.

“Working for the Office of the Solicitor in the Division of Indian Affairs provided me the opportunity to gain practical experience in a wide range of issues within the field of Indian law. I had the opportunity to see the government-to-government relationship in action, meet high level officials, establish relationships with great mentors, and even got to sit in front of the Supreme Court of the United States as they handed down the Dollar General opinion. It was a life-changing summer and I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I have been given!”

University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law
Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program

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Tucson, AZ 85721

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