TEDNA’s Own Matthew Campbell Featured in Indian Country Today

An excerpt:

Matt Campbell Works the Dream Job at NARF

6/14/15

If you had asked Matthew Campbell when he graduated from Fort Lewis College 11 years ago if he ever imagined that he would one day work as an attorney for the Native American Rights Fund, he probably would have responded with an “Are you kidding?” And yet, as he sits in his office at NARF’s Boulder, Colorado headquarters, he sees that destiny set him on his life course—that he is exactly where he is supposed to be.

Campbell, 33 and an enrolled member of the Alaska Native Village of Gambell, was born and raised in Denver. He did not get high grades in high school. He considers himself lucky to have gained entrance into the Durango, Colorado liberal arts college, where he earned a B.A. in Sociology. Campbell said he also struggled in his first year of college, but he did well in his second, third and fourth years.

After college, he did not know what he wanted to do for work. Thanks to his persistent mother, who must have seen a lawyer in him, Campbell took the Law School Admissions Test. But he did not study hard enough, and his scores reflected that. Campbell knew the upper-echelon law schools would never take him, so he applied at the lower-tier schools. They did not want him either.

In 2005, he received a flyer for the Pre-Law Summer Institute for American Indians and Alaska Natives, offered at the American Indian Law Center (AILC) in Albuquerque. He called the AILC yet was told the deadline had passed. “They asked me to send my application anyway, and I got in,” he said.

Campbell describes the two-month program, which replicates the first year of law school, as “intense,” and it attracts recruiters from law schools all over the country. Not only did he do well, but he was also wooed by recruiters from three different law schools. Campbell ended up enrolling at Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University in Tempe. In addition to his J.D., obtained in spring 2008, he holds an Indian Legal Certificate, with an environmental emphasis.

Campbell sent his resume to NARF in 2012 in pursuit of a boarding school staff attorney vacancy. That was the job he interviewed for at the organization’s headquarters. But when NARF called him after the interview, it was to tell him he did not get that position; rather, it had him in mind for an education attorney position that had recently become vacant. Campbell, who understood how prestigious NARF is and how rarely it hires lawyers due to low turnover, did not need time to think about it. “I pretty much accepted on the spot,” he said.

To read the article in its entirety, click here.

NARF represents Native American student in challenge to ban on ceremonial eagle feathers during graduation

A Native American student will be allowed to wear an eagle feather on his cap during his high school graduation ceremony after reaching a settlement agreement with the Clovis Unified School District late Tuesday evening. Christian Titman, a member of the Pit River Tribe, filed a lawsuit and sought an injunction in state court after repeated requests to wear the eagle feather on his cap at graduation were denied by the school district.

Eagle feathers are considered sacred objects in many Native American religious traditions. They represent honesty, truth, majesty, strength, courage, wisdom, power, and freedom. Many Native Americans believe that as eagles roam the sky, they have a special connection with God. Often, Native American graduates receive an eagle feather from an elder or their community in recognition of educational achievements and wish to wear it during their graduation ceremony in order to honor their tribal religion, community, achievement, and traditions.

In an affidavit submitted to the court, Isidro Gali, Vice Chairperson of the Pit River Tribes said, “[t]he gift of an eagle feather to wear at a ceremony is a great honor given in recognition of an important transition and has great spiritual meaning. When given in honor of a graduation ceremony, the eagle feather is also recognition of academic achievement and school-related success. Eagle feathers are worn with pride and respect.”

“Although school districts across the country recognize the importance of wearing eagle feathers to Native graduates, there remains a minority that persists in erecting undue barriers. However, once the religious and cultural significance of wearing eagle feathers is understood by school districts, it is easy for schools to accommodate the practice at graduation ceremonies,” said Joel West Williams, Staff Attorney with the Native American Rights Fund, who represented Titman along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and California Indian Legal Services.

Matthew Campbell, another Native American Rights Fund Staff Attorney representing Mr. Titman said, “Importantly, this settlement requires the school district to remain engaged after graduation and discuss with Christian ways that it can improve communications regarding religious accommodations for future graduates. We are hopeful that future Native American graduates will not face the same obstacles.”

NARF has a long history of assisting students who are prohibited from wearing eagle feathers at graduation ceremonies due to narrow graduation dress codes. For more information, please contact Staff Attorney Joel West Williams at (202) 785-4166 or Staff Attorney Matthew Campbell at (303) 447-8760.