In observance of Native November, UW Law Library celebrates the accomplishments of members of the Native community in the legal profession.
Andrew Adams III
Justice, Muscogee (Creek) Nation Supreme Court; Attorney, Hogan Adams
Andrew Adams III (Muscogee (Creek) Nation), UW Law JD 2006, currently serves as Justice of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Supreme Court, Chief Justice on the Santee Sioux Nation of Nebraska Supreme Court, and Justice on the Gun Lake Tribal Supreme Court. He is also a founding member of Hogan Adams PLLC, where he represents clients in matters involving federal Indian law, tribal constitutional law, tribal governance, litigation, gaming law, complex financial transactions, tax issues related to Tribal governments and individual tribal members, business law, employment law, treaty hunting, fishing, and gathering law, and government relations. Prior to entering private practice, he served as General Counsel for the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin.
Judge, Attorney, and Advocate
John Beaudin (Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians), UW Law JD 1980, served in Vietnam before obtaining his bachelor’s degree at UW-Green Bay and enrolling at UW Law School. At UW-Madison, he advocated for the needs of Native students, serving as Chair of the Chancellor’s Minority Advisory Committee and working closely with student organizations Wunk Sheek and the Indigenous Law Student Association. After obtaining his law degree, he served as Chief Judge of the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians and maintained a private practice, serving as an important advocate for the unrepresented and underserved in Wisconsin.
Ruth Muskrat Bronson
Educator and Activist
Born in 1897 to a Cherokee father and Irish mother, Ruth Muskrat Bronson championed Native American rights and education throughout her life, as both a teacher and an activist. She served as Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians from 1944-1949, establishing and managing the NCAI’s Legislative News Service, as well as its Legal Aid and Service Bureau. With the NCAI, and later with the Bureau of Indian Affairs where she served as Executive Secretary from 1950 to 1962, Bronson worked tirelessly to legally empower Native communities.
Hiram Chase III
Hiram Chase III (Omaha Tribe of Nebraska) was the first Native person admitted to the Nebraska bar. formed the first Native-owned law firm in the United States with fellow Omaha Thomas L. Sloan. He made several appearances before the United States Supreme Court and was elected County Judge and then County Attorney of Thurston County, NE. The first person to record the Omaha language in writing, he published O MU HU W B GRa Za: The Chase System of Reading and Recording the Omaha and Other Indian Languages. As an early leader of the Society of American Indians, he championed the rights of Native people and was a critic of the Dawes Act, which subdivided traditional tribal landholdings into individual allotments.
Attorney and Protector
Eliza Burton “Lyda” Conley (Wyandot Nation of Kansas) undertook a lifelong campaign to protect the Wyandot National Burying Ground in downtown Kansas City from development. Faced with the proposed sale of the burying ground by the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma, she and her sisters mounted a public relations campaign and took turns standing guard over the site with a shotgun. She filed a petition seeking a permanent injunction against the sale of the site, and ultimately argued the case before the Supreme Court of the United States. The Supreme Court ruled against her, but she gained the support of a Kansas senator, who authored and secured the passage of a bill protecting the site. Despite this, development proposals continued until 1998, when the Wyandot Nation of Kansas and Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma came to an agreement that the site would be preserved for religious and cultural uses only. Conley died in 1946 and was buried near her family members in the Wyandot National Burying Ground.
Laura Cornelius Kellogg
Author and Activist
Laura Cornelius Kellogg (“Minnie”) (“Wynnogene“) (10 September, 1880 – 1947), was an Oneida leader, author, orator, activist and visionary and a strong advocate for the Oneida and Haudenosaunee peoples. Kellogg, a descendant of distinguished Oneida leaders, helped establish the Society of American Indians. Kellogg was a supporter of the renaissance and sovereignty of the Six Nations of the Iroquois, and fought for communal tribal lands, tribal autonomy and self-government.
Vine Deloria, Jr.
Lawyer, Theologian, Historian, and Activist
Perhaps best known for his 1969 book Custer Died For Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto, Vine Deloria, Jr. was at the forefront of Native American legal and theological thought in the second half of the twentieth century. A member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Deloria earned both a master’s degree in theology and JD from Colorado Law. He taught as a tenured professor of political science, and established the first master’s degree program in American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona. In his lifetime, he published more than twenty books, served as executive director for the National Congress of American Indians, and served as a board member of the National Museum of the American Indian.
Attorney, Judge, Diplomat
Keith Harper (Cherokee Nation) served as United States Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council from 2014 to 2019. A graduate of NYU School of Law, he was a staff attorney with the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) for 11 years. While at NARF, he represented the plaintiff class of several hundred thousand Native people in the class-action Indian trust funds lawsuit Cobell v. Salazar, which ultimately settled for $3.4 billion. He has also served as a Supreme Court Justice on the Supreme Court of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and an Appellate Justice on the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court. His private practice focuses on Native American affairs, litigation, and international clients from the private and public sectors.
Melissa Holds the Enemy
Lead Counsel, Crow Nation
Melissa Holds the Enemy (Crow Nation), UW Law JD 2010, serves as Lead Counsel for the Crow Nation. While attending UW Law School, she worked as a research assistant at the Great Lakes Indian Law Center and served as president of the Indigenous Law Student Association. As Deputy Executive Counsel and then Lead Counsel for the Crow Nation, she has advised the Nation on mining and water rights as well as the day-to-day operations of the Tribal government. She also serves as the Executive Director of the Coalition of Large Tribes, an advocacy group for land and energy issues facing American Indian tribes with land bases exceeding 100,000 acres.
Arlinda Locklear (Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina) received her JD from the School of Law at Duke University and began her career at the Native American Rights Fund. She twice served as lead counsel in cases where the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of her tribal clients. Solem v. Bartlett established that reservation boundaries are not diminished when reservation lands are opened up for settlement by non-Native people. County of Oneida v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York State was a landmark case establishing that tribes have the right to sue for possession of land taken in violation of federal law. Locklear also represented the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina for several decades in their bid for full federal recognition.
Sources: Arizona State University Library; Stilling, Glenn Ellen Starr. The Lumbee Indians: An Annotated Bibliography (Appalachian State University); College of Charleston, Wikipedia; Photo Credit: Arizona State University Library
Attorney and First Female Native American Lawyer
Laura Lykins (born 1869/70) was Oklahoma’s first female lawyer. She graduated from the Law Department of the Carlisle (Penn.) Indian School and then went to Oklahoma City, where she was the first female Native American admitted to the bar. She was born on the Shawnee Reservation in Kansas. Her father was the brother of the famous Chief Bluejacket.
Negotiator and First Native American Lawyer
James McDonald (1801–1831), a Choctaw negotiator, was the first Native American trained professionally as a lawyer. During the 1820s he fought to prevent his tribe’s removal from its Mississippi homeland. Though he failed to stop the removal, his argument that America’s courts should enforce the promises of the government’s Indian treaties, laid the foundation for the future of federal Indian law. In 1824 the three principal chiefs of the Choctaw Nation, Pushmataha, Mushulatubbee, and Apukshunnubbee, organized the Choctaw Delegation to negotiate a treaty with the president. McDonald and David Folsom served as the principal negotiators. When the treaty was completed in 1825, it protected mission schools, obtained high annuity payments, and relinquished Choctaw debts while retaining land in Mississippi.
Attorney, Mediator, Judge
Debra O’Gara (Yup’ik, Tlingit) worked as a prosecutor, staff attorney and mediator for two decades before serving as Presiding Judge for the Tlingit and Haida Tribal Court in Juneau, Alaska for 14 years. Her areas of expertise are in Indian child welfare, child support, domestic violence, criminal law, tribal sovereignty, fishing & hunting rights, and jurisdictional issues. She also served as an Alaska State Court Magistrate Judge before retiring in 2020. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Indigenous Studies at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, focusing on traditional Tlingit dispute resolution practices and their potential applications to current court systems.
Sources: KFSK, Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, KNBA; Photo Credit: KFSK, courtesy of Debra O’Gara
Of Counsel, Quarles & Brady
Samantha Skenandore (Ho-Chunk Nation), an expert in tribal law and federal Indian law, advises tribal and corporate clients in tribal governance, governmental affairs, corporate transactions, real estate, labor issues and litigation. She on the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Law Foundation and as Board Chair of the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, and completed a four-year elected term as Associate Justice for the Ho-Chunk Nation Supreme Court. Prior to attending law school at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, she served as a legislative aide to the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin.
Thomas L. Sloan
Thomas Louis Sloan (14 May 1863– 10 September 1940) was an Omaha lawyer. In 1911, he helped found the Society of American Indians. Sloan, though accepted into law school, instead chose to apprentice with his friend, Attorney Hiram Chase. In 1892 he was admitted to the Nebraska bar. He specialized in cases involving Native Americans. In 1904, Sloan had the honor of being the first Native American Attorney to argue a case before the United States Supreme Court. The case involved Native American rights and was decided in his favor. Eight years later he opened a law office in Washington D.C., which was the first law firm owned by Native Americans.