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Letter to President Obama

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  • Letter to President Obama

    The following was written by a good friend of mine to President Barack Obama. This letter makes a lot of sense to me and is very timely.

    What do you think???


    Please find attached (and pasted below) our letter to President Obama
    requesting he consider a Native American for the Supreme Court.
    Accompanying the letter is a list of some potential Natives for federal
    court positions as well.

    Please feel free to circulate widely.

    Heather Dawn Thompson
    President, National Native American Bar Association (NNABA)

    President Barack Obama
    1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
    Washington, DC 20500

    Re: Appointment of a Native American to the United States Supreme Court

    May 6, 2009
    Dear President Obama:

    Cante waste un nape ciyuzapi (We shake your hand with a good heart.
    -Lakota). As you weigh the various candidates for the upcoming Supreme
    Court vacancy, the National Native American Bar Association strongly asks
    you to consider a Native American candidate. While much of America is
    underrepresented on the Supreme Court, the U.S. has never appointed an
    individual indigenous to this country to its Supreme Court.

    President Obama, the Native American community turns to you humbled. We
    recognize with a warm heart that many of our brothers and sisters also
    turn to you with sincere and important interests in seeing familiar faces
    on the Supreme Court. However, we turn to you with pleas and desperation.
    For over two hundred years the United States Supreme Court has sat in
    judgment over us, over our lands, over our treaties, and over our
    families. Not one single day have we ever had a voice in those decisions.

    No Native American Supreme Court Justice, Federal Judge, nor Supreme
    Court Clerk. Not only has a Native American never served on the Supreme
    Court, there is not a single Native[1] on the federal bench in the entire
    country,[2] and to the best our knowledge there has never been a Native
    American Supreme Court clerk. There are 866 federal judgeships (9 on the
    Supreme Court, 179 on the Courts of Appeals and 678 in the District
    Courts), and not one Native American federal judge.

    Dozens of Qualified Native American Candidates. While the Native bar is
    small, where we lack in quantity, we excel in quality. Because there are
    so few Native attorneys, they must each be excellent not only in their
    own field, but in Tribal, state, and federal law as well. There are
    dozens of Native attorneys qualified for the federal bench (a few
    examples are attached), and a number of qualified Natives for the Supreme
    Court such as John Echohawk (whom many consider the Thurgood Marshall of
    Indian Country), Larry Echohawk, and Kevin Gover.

    Disproportionate Effect of Federal Courts on Native Americans. In
    addition, the Supreme Court and federal court decisions often
    disproportionately affect Natives. As outlined in the U.S. Constitution,
    Tribal governments are Nations pre-dating the formation of the United
    States, and the relationship is regulated by Congress. Most Indian
    reservations continue to be in “federal trust” and federal criminal law
    applies on most Indian communities. Not only do federal courts oversee
    this Congressional relationship with Tribes and the treaty and trust
    responsibility to Tribes and its citizens, Tribal citizens are the only
    group in the country that has an entire code of federal law (25 USC)
    devoted to them.

    Hurdles: State Acrimony/Value of Tribal court experience. Two additional
    hurdles continue to hinder on-going efforts of Natives to participate in
    the federal bench: the state nominating structure, and the lack of
    understanding of Tribal court experience. Unfortunately many states and
    state legal infrastructures continue to have a very acrimonious
    relationship with Tribes and Native Americans. It is in these states
    where Natives are most desperately needed on the federal bench to bring
    forth an additional perspective. But it is often here where Natives are
    the most unlikely to be successful due to federal deference to the local
    state nominating process. In addition, a misunderstanding of Tribal
    courts has often led to an incomplete valuation of the experience of our
    esteemed tribal court judges and tribal appellate court justices. In
    order to serve as a Tribal court judge one must not only have an
    understanding of oral tribal customs, but of all written tribal
    constitutions and laws, all state laws, and all federal laws.

    President Obama, we recognize and respect the difficult decision before
    you, and the many interests you must weigh. We ask only that our lack of
    voice for over 200 years be a consideration in your decision.

    Lila wopila (Greatest thanks),
    Heather Dawn Thompson (Cheyenne River Sioux – Mnicoju/Itazipco)
    President, National Native American Bar Association

    [1] Enrolled Tribal members (American Indian/Alaska Native) or Native
    [2] This fact is confirmed by the Biographical Directory of Federal
    Judges constructed by the Federal Judicial Center which includes data on
    race or ethnicity for all federal judges. The link for the directory is
    available at Judges of the United States Courts. In the past
    30 years, only two Native Americans have served on the federal bench: (1)
    Judge Frank Howell Seay, nominated by President Carter and confirmed in
    1979 to the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Oklahoma, assumed
    senior status in 2003; and (2) Judge Billy Michael Burrage, nominated by
    President Clinton and confirmed in 1994 to the U.S. District Court,
    Northern District of Oklahoma, resigned in 2001.

    Federal Judicial Appointments: Some Possible Native American Candidates
    May 2009

    · Diane Humetewa (Hopi)
    · Faith C. Klepper (Navajo)


    · Hon. Denette Mouser (Muscogee (Creek))

    · Hon. Deborah Sanchez (Chumash, decendant)
    · Tom Weathers (Qawalangin Tribe of

    · John Echohawk (Pawnee)

    · John Echohawk (Pawnee)
    · Keith Harper (Cherokee)

    · Mary Smith (Cherokee)

    · Hon. Joe Martin (Menominee)
    · Professor Matthew Fletcher (Grand
    Traverse Band of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians)

    · Hon. Robert Blaeser (White Earth
    · Hon. Anita Fineday (White Earth
    · Dean Kevin Washburn (Chickasaw)

    · Donald “Del” Laverdure (Crow)
    · Danna Jackson (Confederated Salish and
    Kootenai Tribes, descendant)

    North Dakota
    · Steve Emery (Cheyenne River Sioux)

    · Arvo Mikkanen (Kiowa/Comanche)
    · Hon. Denette Mouser (Muscogee (Creek))
    · Allison Thompson(Muscogee (Creek))

    · Hon. Suzanne Ojibway Townsend (Minnesota
    Chippewa, Fond du Lac Band)

    South Dakota
    · Steve Emery (Cheyenne River Sioux)
    · Tracey Fischer (Cheyenne River Sioux)


    · Hon. Theresa Pouley (Colville)

    Supreme Court
    · John Echohawk (Pawnee)
    · Kevin Gover (Pawnee)

    [1] NNABA also has an official “endorsement” process when specific
    individuals are being considered for specific judicial openings. Above,
    however, you will find a list of some Native American attorneys for
    possible federal judicial appointments to help show the depth and breadth
    of Native Attorneys. As of May 2009, to the best of NNABA’s knowledge,
    there are no enrolled Tribal members on the Federal bench.
    Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.

  • #2
    i heard hillary is a candidate, rumor i dont know
    thanks dad for showing me the way, teaching me the language, and not leaving my mother...*L*

    *RoUg3 MoD sTaTuS*


    • #3
      Humm.... I'm glad to see someone actually address the issue and not just sit back and complain.

      I hope it succeeds!


      • #4
        theres alot of what ifs huh?

        it would be cool to see a female justice,, so lets just say our AZ AG from hopi became a member of the supreme court. awesome then what?


        i wouldnt know what to say if it actually set indian nations back based on decisions made.

        what exactly is heather dawn thompson lookin for ifff a native justice is appointed?

        haha, what are we all hoping for?

        whome i noticed you didnt comment? what are yer thoughts?

        its friday afternoon and i cant really think that deep right now cause my brain is already gone for the wkend. but theres still alot of queestions.
        thanks dad for showing me the way, teaching me the language, and not leaving my mother...*L*

        *RoUg3 MoD sTaTuS*


        • #5
          I've heard good things about Diane Humetewa, and about the Echohawks also.

          There are so many groups out there lobbying for their own candidate - hopefully a Native will be seriously considered too.


          • #6
            Originally posted by injunboy View Post
            whome i noticed you didnt comment? what are yer thoughts?


            Well since you asked...

            There was a time when Native people did not have their own to represent themselves in a United States court of law. This was similar in my opinion to "taxatiion without representation."

            Today we have qualified Natives who not only understand laws in their respective areas but also the law as it applies to federal trust law and the federal code uniquely applied to federally recognized tribes.

            Over the past 20 years, American Indians have lost approximately 80% of cases sent to the higher court.

            I feel if we had a Native judge sitting in the Supreme Court, we would have a voice to educate other supreme court judges about law as it applies to American Indians.

            Perhaps our track record of loses in the higher courts would have a profound turnaround?
            Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.


            • #7
              still living here through it all and being the original people of this land.. you would think that they would create a seat just for us!!
              thanks dad for showing me the way, teaching me the language, and not leaving my mother...*L*

              *RoUg3 MoD sTaTuS*


              • #8
                im actually pretty proud of that comment, haha

                barack is this close ... to his african roots. he wasnt even born here. its kinda ashame he gets the power to appoint a justice. its prolly more complicated than that huh? im just saying.
                thanks dad for showing me the way, teaching me the language, and not leaving my mother...*L*

                *RoUg3 MoD sTaTuS*


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