From Harvard Law Today:
Being Native American defines Elizabeth Reese ’16. Then again, so does being the granddaughter of a Lutheran minister from Pennsylvania. Together, the two have helped shape a woman and a lawyer.
Reese was raised 20 miles north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, as a member of the Pueblo of Nambé tribe. The village there is small and old—it dates back to the 14th century—as is the tribe that makes the reservation home. Some 1,100 members of the 2,000-person Nambé tribe live on the 20,000-acre reservation, which is filled with cottonwoods, juniper, and scrub oak, and surrounded by sandstone and mountains and river. Such isolation has helped the community maintain its culture and traditions.
Reese was raised squarely in that community and in that culture, although she’s always felt she belonged in two very different worlds. She grew being called Elizabeth but also Yunpovi (which means Willow Flower in the Tewa language). She may have been surrounded by scrub pine, but her father read her Homer as a child, which helped her navigate traditionally elite white spaces more easily than she might have otherwise.
She considered her educational journey an opportunity to learn things that would aid her in making a difference for her people—for her tribe specifically, but for native people more broadly. First, she went to Yale.
“When I went off to school at Yale I really wanted to make sure I understood the world of education and power that exists in America, because that world is something few Indian people have been a part of and understood,” says Reese. “And yet, that’s where so many decisions that impact us and define what will happen to us get made.”
As an undergraduate she developed a background in political theory, which led her to England and the University of Cambridge. There she earned a Master of Philosophy in political thought and intellectual history and did work on Indian political theory. She counts herself as one of the first Native Americans to attend the university and one of the first scholars there to focus on Indian ideas.
Reese’s commitment to the study—and protection—of Native concerns led her to Harvard Law School and shaped her focus during her three years. She built visibility, programming, and recruitment as a leader in the HLS Native American Law Students Association. She helped to write a District Court amicus brief intervening in a tribal water jurisdiction case through the Native Amicus Briefing Project. She also served as a congressional intern and a fellow for the Senate Judiciary Committee, and interned at the Department of Justice in the civil rights division.
Now she is hoping to become a warrior.
“There’s a common theme in Indian society that lawyers are the modern warriors for Indian people,” says Reese. “I’m really excited to become one of those warriors and to join the fight to ensure that tribal sovereignty survives for my children, my grandchildren, and my great grandchildren.”
After graduation Reese will clerk for Judge Amul R. Thapar at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. Late in the year she’ll head to Washington, D.C., as a Public Service Venture Fund Redstone Fellow at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The breadth of cases she’ll be part of—from litigating voting rights on one side of the country to school desegregation on the other side—excites her.
While Reese hopes to spend the early part of her career working on civil rights cases that affect the lives of people of color in the U.S—including her family members—she also hopes to someday practice Indian law. After all it’s the law, she says, that determines whether or not Indian tribes survive.
“It can’t be understated how fragile our future is—how our survival is still something we have to fight for,” says Reese. “Unlike a lot of other groups or identities, this is our only homeland. Our culture exists nowhere else in the world if we fail to ensure its survival here. I take that challenge very seriously and hope I can do all I can to protect my tribe and my people and our sovereignty.”
S. 184 amends the Indian Child Protection and Family Violence Prevention Act to require background checks before foster care placements are ordered in tribal court proceedings. The bill passed out of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on Feb. 2, 2015, and passed the full Senate on June 1, 2015. The bill passed the House of Representatives on May 23, 2016.
“Protecting Native children is paramount,” said Barrasso. “Requiring background checks for potential foster care parents of Indian children is just common sense. I want to thank Senator Hoeven for his leadership in introducing this important bill, and I call on the president to sign it into law as soon as possible.”
“Our bill ensures that Native American children living on reservations have all of the same protections when assigned to foster care that children living off the reservation have,” Hoeven said. “The measure requires background checks for all adults living in a foster home, which will help to protect children placed there at an already difficult time in their lives.”
From Indianz.com, here. Education will be among the top discussion topics.
The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will hold a business meeting and legislative hearing on May 11. Three items are on the agenda for the business meeting. They are:
• S.1163, the Native American Languages Reauthorization Act. The bill extends grants awarded under the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act from three years to five years. The committee held a hearing on November 18, 2015.
• S.2304, the Tribal Early Childhood, Education, and Related Services Integration Act. The bill creates a demonstration project so tribes, tribal education institutions and tribal organizations can develop early childhood education programs. The committee held a hearing on April 6.
• S.2739, the Spokane Tribe of Indians of the Spokane Reservation Equitable Compensation Act. The bill compensates the Spokane Tribe of Washington for land lost to the Grand Coulee Dam. The committee hasn’t held a hearing on the bill during the 114th Congress but prior versions have been advanced in the past.
The legislative hearing will focus on two bills. They are:
• S.2417, the Tribal Veterans Health Care Enhancement Act. The bill authorizes the Indian Health Service to cover the cost of veterans’ copays for services rendered at the Veterans Health Administration.
• S.2842, the Johnson-O’Malley Supplemental Indian Education Program Modernization Act. The bill updates the decades-old data that the Bureau of Indian Affairs uses to award grants under the Johnson O’Malley (JOM) program.
The meeting and hearing will take place in Room 628 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
With graduation around the corner, this is a good time to remind everyone about the flyers TEDNA and NARF created. Two flyers were created to assist students and families in their quest to wear an eagle feather at their graduation ceremony. The first trifold flyer is for students and families and serves to provide guidance on working with School Districts to make the request. The second trifold flyer is an informational flyer for School Districts to inform them about the significance and importance of the eagle feather to graduating students.
An excerpt from the first flyer:
Every year, Native high school students across the country seek to express their individual and tribal religious beliefs and celebrate their personal academic achievements by wearing an eagle feather at their graduation ceremonies. While most public school districts permit Native students to wear eagle feathers at graduation, some school districts do not allow it. This guide provides information for students and families on steps they can take to ensure that the graduate can wear an eagle feather during the commencement ceremony. It is based on approaches we have found most successful in addressing this issue.