“Seeing these indigenous 1Ls is a sign that we are still here and that we are thriving despite what has been done to us. “
Weston Jones chose to date Mitchell Hamline because he occupies the traditional lands of his people. A member of the Oglala Lakota Nation who grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, he says “there is something in the land that helps me and helps me with my studies.”
“Law, especially federal law, is inseparable from Indigenous identity and what it is to be Indigenous,” said Jones, who added he had a purpose in attending law school. : to be able to work to recover land for its people.
“As an Aboriginal person, you have a duty to take control of the future, and I believe that law and law school can help me build a better future for these generations to come. “
Jones is one of eleven Native American freshmen at Mitchell Hamline this year, a school record.
The increase is part of a concerted effort by the school to attract more tribal and descendant students to the school, according to Angelique EagleWoman (Wambdi A. Was’teWinyan), director of Mitchell Hamline’s Native American Institute of Law and Sovereignty.
“I am proud of the work we have done to strengthen our offerings in Native American law,” she said. “We have an important program here.
“Our Native students study more than Native American law. This is why it is important for Mitchell Hamline to become a place where Indigenous students feel welcome.
To this end, EagleWoman has been very active in meeting and working with Indigenous students attending a pre-law institute through the American Indian Law Center in the summer before they begin their law studies. Jones was among the students who attended; getting to know EagleWoman is another reason he says he felt welcome and wanted to attend Mitchell Hamline.
There is also a new physical space at the school for Indigenous students to be together – located in a room next to EagleWoman’s office. It is a place where Aboriginal students can take online courses in the company of each other; a corner is also reserved for the ceremony.
“Seeing all of those Native 1Ls is a sign that we’re still here and thriving despite what has been done to us,” said GeWaden Dunkley (Bois Forte Band of Chippewa), a 3L who is president of Mitchell Hamline’s. Native American Law Students Association (NALSA). “As with other marginalized groups, much of history since contact with Europeans omits indigenous voices either by neglecting them or actively suppressing them.
“This is compounded by the unique nation-to-nation relationship between Indigenous communities and the United States that allowed the latter to create despicable laws that controlled all aspects of Indigenous life. “
For Dunkley, he sees Indigenous students seeking a law degree as a way to strive “to be the voice of the voiceless and to bring about change for those who were powerless.”
“We are the dreams of babies who died in residential schools and the last wish of those starving for broken promises.”
EagleWoman is now the sole director of Mitchell Hamline’s Institute of Native American Law and Sovereignty (NALS) after previously serving as co-director with Colette Routel. Routel recently became a judge in Hennepin County, Minnesota.
EagleWoman describes the moment as having come full circle, as a Dakota woman who now leads a major Native American law program on traditional Dakota lands.
She first became a professor of law at Hamline University Law School in 2006, then spent a visiting year teaching Indigenous law at the University of Kansas, before moving west to establish an Honors program in Native American Law at the University of Idaho Law School, and the first Dean of Indigenous Law in Canada at Bora Laskin Law School in Thunder Bay.
She returned to Mitchell Hamline as a visiting professor in 2018, then professor of law and co-director of the Native American Law and Sovereignty Institute in 2020.
EagleWoman has also served as General Counsel for her tribe, the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reserve, and is currently a judge of its Supreme Court.
“There is a great need for law graduates who know Native American law and an even greater need for Native peoples to learn the law themselves so that they can serve their people,” she said. “I look forward to expanding the work of the NALS Institute and strengthening tribal sovereignty in legal education. “