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JULY 2015

Summer Graphic

Ya’at’eeh/Greetings, NNABA members:

Summer is upon us and it is proving to be a busy time for NNABA. In June, I had the privilege of attending the Navajo Nation Bar Conference held at Twin Arrows Resort in support of my initiative to grow the NNABA enterprise and strengthen relationships with our American Indian Bar Associations (see related article below). Also, in Phoenix, Arizona on June 26, 2015, NNABA Treasurer Patty Ferguson-Bohnee announced the issuance of NNABA’s Formal Ethics Opinion. NNABA continues to travel the country to present and discuss the findings of The Pursuit of Inclusion: An In-Depth Exploration of the Experiences and Perspectives of Native American Attorneys in the Legal Profession. I look forward to meeting many of you in the near future. NNABA could not carry out its mission without the support of our members. It is an honor and a privilege to work on your behalf. Ahéhee’.

Linda Benally
Linda Benally
NNABA President, 2015-2016

Representing Indian Nations, Not Just Indian Lawyers.


On June 26, 2015, NNABA adopted its Formal Ethics Opinion No. 1, Duties of Tribal Court Advocates to Ensure Due Process Afforded to All Individuals Targeted for Disenrollment (available here). As you know, NNABA seeks to broadly represent the interests of indigenous communities, including supporting the administration of justice in those communities. ‘Justice’ as broadly understood in Indian country, includes individuals’ rights to identity, culture and citizenship, as set forth in tribal , federal and international law, and the attendant right to suffer the loss of such rights only through due process of law. NNABA determined to address disenrollment specifically because it is an area of increasing activity and one perhaps not well understood by advocates working on such cases or their licensing jurisdictions.

NNABA Past-President Patty Ferguson-Bohnee and Board Member Gabe Galanda announced NNABA Formal Ethics Opinion No. 1 at the NNABA-AZ annual meeting and CLE luncheon where Galanda also presented his recently published Arizona Law Review article Curing the Tribal Disenrollment Epidemic: In Search of a Remedy.

The article, authored by Galanda and Ryan Dreveskracht, provides a comprehensive analysis of tribal membership, and the divestment thereof—commonly known as “disenrollment.” There is generally not yet an adequate legal remedy to stem the crisis or redress related Indian civil rights violations. Galanda’s goal is to find a cure, before it is too late.

“It is incumbent upon Indian Country to break the silence regarding the tribally taboo subject of disenrollment,” said Galanda. “If we don’t ask and answer tough questions about tribal belonging, others in the Congress or courts will do so, and we won’t like their answers. Candid tribal discussion and education will also lead to preventing further tribal self-termination.”

Read the full article HERE.

NNABA Formal Ethics Opinion No. 1 follows NNABA’s April 2015 adoption of Resolution 2015-6 “Supporting Equal Protection and Due Process for Any Divestment of the American Indigenous Right of Tribal Citizenship,” which declared that it is immoral and unethical for any lawyer to advocate for or contribute to the divestment or restriction of the American indigenous right of tribal citizenship, without equal protection at law or due process of law or an effective remedy for the violation of such rights.

“I am proud that our national tribal bar has taken the lead in causing civil discourse within Indian Country about the human rights violations associated with disenrollment,” said Galanda.

In NNABA Formal Ethics Opinion No. 1, it is legal process that NNABA has opined on, setting out the duties of tribal advocates (including advocates who appear before or represent any tribal body exercising legislative, executive, judicial, or quasi-judicial functions, whether they are lawyers are non-lawyers, whether they are admitted to a tribal bar or not). This is not an Opinion about any particular case or cases. Rather, NNABA seeks to supplement the understanding of legal process before and representing tribal governments. NNABA does not presume to set standards for tribes or displace any existing laws or frameworks for law practice or citizenship that tribes have or might in the future establish for themselves. NNABA honors tribes’ rights of self-governance. This NNABA Formal Ethics Opinion No. 1 is about lawyer/tribal advocate instruction and conduct. It is not results-oriented and of course does not bind tribes or supplant any tribal law or decision-making process. It is intended to be a helpful and instructive document, in keeping with similar documents routinely crafted by bar associations of other jurisdictions. NNABA is unique in that our members practice in many different jurisdictions and thus NNABA determined that some overarching guidance would be helpful and thus developed NNABA Formal Ethics Opinion No. 1 in a collaborative manner with input from numerous NNABA members and leading Indian Law scholars.

NNABA intends Formal Ethics Opinion No. 1 as guidance for lawyers and tribal advocates addressing disenrollment issues. NNABA hopes individuals engaged in advocacy on disenrollment cases will read Formal Ethics Opinion No. 1 and consider their approach to their case in the context of the strong tribal, federal and international legal foundation for indigenous peoples’ rights to culture, identity and citizenship. In short, NNABA hopes that the Opinion causes people to pause and reflect on their case and their professional responsibilities, and when appropriate, to initiate or support pathways that ensure due process of law for any individual targeted for disenrollment. NNABA encourages ensuring such due process through the utilization of traditional tribal avenues, such as general council review (presenting the issue to the entire adult membership of a tribe) or traditional healing or spiritual ceremonies led by elders, medicine men or other spiritual leaders as might be appropriate within the particular culture of any of the United States’ many diverse indigenous communities.

NNABA hopes that Formal Ethics Opinion No. 1 is helpful to NNABA’s membership. If there are other issues about which you believe it would also be helpful to request NNABA’s consideration of additional Formal Ethics Opinions, please let us know.



On June 25- 27, Phil Brodeen (Minnesota), Lauren van Schilfgaarde (California) and Thomasina Real Bird (Colorado) participated in the third class of the Collaborative Bar Leadership Academy (CBLA) held in Minneapolis, Minnesota. President Linda Benally served on the faculty of the leadership academy. Through a collaboration of the Coalition of Bar Associations of Color (CBAC*) and the American Bar Association (ABA), the CBLA’s purpose is to strengthen the pipeline of diverse bar association leaders through leadership training and professional development programs. The CBLA benefits current and future bar leaders, the bar association community, and the legal profession overall, and lays the foundation for further collaborative efforts by CBAC and the ABA to foster diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.


Phil Brodeen (Bois Forte Band of Chippewa)
"The CBLA gave me an opportunity to identify my strengths and weaknesses as a leader and provided me with the resources to develop a plan whereby I can capitalize on those strengths while continually addressing shortcomings in my leadership style."

Mr. Brodeen grew up on the Lake Vermilion Reservation in northeastern Minnesota. Phil is an associate at the Indian owned law firm of BlueDog, Paulson & Small PLLP in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His practice is focused exclusively on providing legal counsel to tribal governments and instrumentalities. Phil is the current President of the Minnesota American Indian Bar Association ("MAIBA").

Thomasina Real Bird (Ihanktonwan Nakota & Sicangu Lakota and member of Yankton Sioux Tribe)
"CBLA was an all-around valuable experience. The information shared by the presenters and panelists was both thought-provoking and practical. The information is directly applicable to NNABA, my professional work, as well as on a personal level."

Ms. Real Bird is a Senior Associate for the law firm of Fredericks Peebles & Morgan. Thomasina represents clients in all areas of Tribal and Federal Indian Law. She serves as general counsel for the Yankton Sioux Tribe and is dedicated to representing tribes, tribal corporations, and individual tribal members. Her approach to serving her clients is to listen, be courteous, be respectful, and to always be reverent to tribal customs, history, and solutions. Thomasina attended Stanford University and earned both her Bachelors of Arts in Native American Studies and Masters of Arts in Sociology. She attended the Pre-Law Summer Institute at the UNM Law School, and received her J.D. from Columbia Law School in the City of New York and is licensed in Colorado, South Dakota, and numerous Tribal and Federal courts. Thomasina is a current member of the ABA's Center for Professional Responsibility Diversity Committee and was recently appointed by ABA President-Elect Paulette Brown to sit on the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession. Thomasina is a NNABA delegate to the ABA Young Lawyers Division Assembly and is the Chair-Elect of the NNABA Young Lawyer Committee. See here for Thomasina’s full member profile.

Lauren van Schilfgaarde (Cochiti Pueblo)
“CBLA was such an inspiring collection of brilliant and energetic individuals from across the country. Peppered with practical and thought-provoking panels, CBLA was an incredibly valuable experience.”

Ms. van Schilfgaarde is the Tribal Law Specialist for the Tribal Law and Policy Institute, a Native American non-profit which promotes the enhancement of justice in Indian country and the health, well-being, and culture of Native peoples. While in law school, Lauren clerked for the Native American Rights Fund and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. Lauren holds a J.D. from UCLA School of Law. While at UCLA, Lauren served as the President of the Native American Law Students Association (NALSA) and served on the Board of the National NALSA. Lauren also holds a B.A. in Religion from Colorado College. Lauren currently serves as chair for the NNABA Young Lawyers Committee, is a NNABA delegate for the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Young Lawyers Division, a member of the ABA’s Center for Racial and Ethnic Diversity, and a board member for the California Indian Law Association. See here for Lauren’s full member profile.

NNABA President Linda Benally with NNABA’s CBLA Participants Thomasina Real Bird, Lauren van Schilfgaarde and Phil Brodeen.

* CBAC was established in 1992 and is comprised of the Hispanic National Bar Association, the National Bar Association, the National Native American Bar Association, and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. Leaders from these organizations meet annually to discuss issues of mutual concern and to advocate in support of our shared interests with the executive branch and with elected officials. The CBAC founders include Tricia Tingle, who served as NNABA President in 1993-1994.


Navajo Annual Conference

On June 4-5, 2015, hundreds of Navajo Nation Bar Association (NNBA) members attended NNBA’s annual conference, in which had the theme Revitalizing the Navajo Nation Bar Association. Michael Barthelemy, President of NNBA, led a discussion on the Board’s efforts to stabilize the NNBA and its plan to build forward. The attendees were also given an overview of bylaws, amendments, and NNBA committee updates. The conference also included robust CLE, including a plenary session on the “Nuts and Bolts of the 2015 Navajo Presidential Election Cases.” NNABA President Linda Benally provided the keynote address and presented on NNABA resolutions, and the findings of the Native American Attorney Study. Linda is a Diné citizen, and was honored to be among her people at the conference. Presidents Benally and Barthelemy met and shared information about their respective associations’ initiatives.

NNBA leadership and Carolyn Druin, Conference Chair, expressed their appreciation for NNABA representation at the annual conference and look forward to working with NNABA. Linda Benally and NNABA extend a personal "thank you" to Carolyn Druin for her support in coordinating NNABA’s visit and participation.

Navajo Annual Conference
Michael Barthelemy, Navajo Nation Bar Association President, Carolyn Druin, Conference Chair, Linda Benally, Ray Etcitty, NNBA Vice-President.
Navajo Annual Conference

Navajo Annual Conference


NNABA released a historic study in April 2015 that, for the first time, examined the experience of Native attorneys in terms of inclusion, diversity in the work place, and challenges confronting retention and the ability of natives to build a legal career. This was the first comprehensive research of Native American attorneys and spanned multiple practice settings of roughly 500 survey respondents who all identified as Native. "This comprehensive research is not only the first – but the only – research that examines the experiences of Native American attorneys across all practice settings. It presents a stark portrait of an entire group of attorneys systematically excluded from the legal profession,” said Mary Smith, NNABA Immediate Past President.

The Pursuit of Inclusion: An In-Depth Exploration of the Experiences and Perspectives of
Native American Attorneys in the Legal Profession

July 28, 2015
Akin Gump
Washington, DC
Native American Bar Association-DC Mary Smith
NNABA Immediate Past President
July 30, 2015
Hyatt Regency
Chicago, IL
ABA 2015 Annual Meeting
Select Issues on Indian Law
ABA Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities
Mary Smith
NNABA Immediate Past President
July 31, 2015
Hyatt Regency
Chicago, IL
ABA 2015 Annual Meeting
Forty Years Later: What is the State of
Young Native American Lawyers in the
Legal Profession?

ABA Young Lawyers Division
Colleen Lamarre
Makalika Naholowa’a
Lauren van Schilfgaarde
Dr. Arin Reeves
Mary Smith

To learn more about the study, please click here.


Robert Saunooke was appointed by ABA President William Hubbard to the ABA Standing Commission on the Future of Legal Services. The Commission has spent the last year identifying needs of the public associated with access to justice, including those who live in rural areas and who cannot afford legal services. The Commission is now exploring how the law, lawyers, and the ABA can work to meet the future needs of vulnerable members of the public who may not readily have access to justice. Robert’s appointment continues for the upcoming bar year, as the Commission creates practical deliverables for use by the ABA and the legal community to assist in meeting the needs of the public.

Robert is also an appointed member to the ABA Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. In that capacity, he attended the Florida Bar Annual Meeting in June, 2015. The Committee discussed efforts of the Bar that provide inclusion directives, grants for minority own law firms and outreach efforts to provide minorities the opportunity to explore legal careers.

NNABA thanks Robert for all of his hard work and efforts on these important issues.


MAIBA 19th Annual Scholarship Golf Tournament on July 23, 2015 in Prior Lake, Minnesota

The MAIBA Scholarship Tournament will take place on Thursday, July 23, 2015 at The Meadows at Mystic Lake located at 2400 Mystic Lake Blvd NW, Prior Lake, MN 55372. All net income from the tournament will go toward the MAIBA Scholarship fund, which benefits American Indian students attending Minnesota Law Schools. The MAIBA awarded its first scholarship in December 1998 and continues this tradition today. Each year since then, MAIBA awards scholarships to well-deserving American Indian law students. MAIBA’s scholarship recipients are engaged in leadership roles in American Indian communities and providing them support now will encourage them to continue their engagement after graduation. Contact Tournament Chair Phil Brodeen at to discuss hole sponsorship opportunities or team registration or visit the site here.

MAIBA is a non-profit organization of American Indian attorneys, law students, and officers of tribal courts. The organization also welcomes non-Indian attorneys and law students who are interested in Indian law.

Native American Bar Association of Washington, D.C. lunch program on July 28, 2015 focused on NNABA’s Native American Attorney Study

NABA-DC will be holding a lunch event with Mary Smith, Immediate Past President of the National Native American Bar Association, regarding the NNABA Native Lawyers Survey. It will be held on Tuesday, July 28th at 12pm at Akin Gump located at 1333 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036. The event will provide a forum to discuss the findings of the study with NNABA Immediate Past President, Mary Smith.

NABA-DC was founded in 1997 for the purposes of promoting the educational and professional advancement of Native American attorneys, providing community outreach and education about legal rights of Native Americans, their Communities and Tribes, and promoting the cultural heritage of Native Americans and their Communities and Tribes.

Northwest Indian Bar Association’s Annual Scholarship Dinner a Success

The Northwest Indian Bar Association held its annual Scholarship Dinner at the Seattle Aquarium this year. Our generous supporters and sponsors enjoyed a beautiful evening exploring the Aquarium and catching up with friends and colleagues. We raised a nice amount of money in our silent auction and wine grab that will be used to continue our efforts to provide scholarships to Native law students and funding for area legal clinics providing legal services to our Native brothers and sisters. We look forward to holding next year's dinner at the newly-completed "Intellectual House" on the University of Washington campus.

NWIBA is a non-profit organization comprised of Indian attorneys, judges and Indian Law practitioners in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, and in spirit in British Columbia and the Yukon Territory, which aspires to improve the legal and political landscape for the Pacific Northwest Indian Country.


Our Attorney Membership Form and Student Membership Form are available to download as PDF files. Benefits of being a NNABA member include access to a variety of new, nationwide job announcements by email and on this site. To join, click here. The membership year runs from April to April and dues are $75 per year. In addition to checks and money orders, NNABA is now able to accept credit card payment for payment of dues. If you have any questions about membership or experience any difficulty with downloading, please feel free to contact us at