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29 Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law and Justice 250 (2014)


There were many paths I considered as a young woman and none of them included becoming a law professor. My journey to my present life as a Dakota woman law professor is about balancing between the worlds I travel back and forth in. There is my tribal world, where I feel replenished and part of an on-going community experience stretching back to time immemorial. I feel that I am part of an unfolding history of endurance, strong Native women, and a participant in sustaining our traditional Native ways. On the other hand, there is the non-Indian world, where I often feel that I am a long-term visitor balancing in a foreign political and historical system, serving as a translator from the tribal traditional and historical world. As a law professor, I also serve as a translator between both the U.S. legal world and the tribal world of values embodied in tribal laws and norms.

In this article, I will discuss how I have balanced between these two worlds and found my way as a Dakota woman and law professor. The first sections of the article will describe my educational experiences, my sense of responsibility to my people, and my entry into the legal academy. In describing my experiences, it should be very apparent that I did not follow the usual trodden path to joining the legal academy. Rather, as a typical Dakota woman, I questioned academia as stemming from western civilization, struggled to assert my viewpoint as a tribal person, and dealt with real life experiences along the way. In the second section of the article, I offer my personal insights to my colleagues and those interested in joining the legal academy. This section reflects on the voices that resonated with me from the masterful and courageous work, Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia. The final section concludes with my sense of commitment to continue balancing between two worlds to offer an example to the future generations of tribal peoples seeking legal educations and the fulfillment this brings.