Story Telling and Truth-Telling: Personal Reflections on the Native American Experience in Law Schools

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48 Mitchell Hamline Law Review 704 (2022)


In January of 2021, the American Association of Law Schools (“AALS”) theme was Freedom, Equality and the Common Good. The Indian Nations and Indigenous Peoples Section of the AALS embraced the theme and announced a call for personal reflections incorporating the experiences of Native Americans in law schools. The theme of striving for academic freedom and equality allows for an in-depth questioning of whether Native Americans have been adequately and appropriately represented in legal curricula in the nation’s approximately two hundred law schools. The aspirational goal of realizing the common good must be inclusive of Native American voices as students, faculty, staff, and graduates and in curricula choices in law schools across the country.

There has been sparse legal scholarship on the experience of Native American applicants, law students, faculty, and staff in law schools. The Indigenous perspective essays in this compilation are an opportunity to hear the voices of Indigenous peoples on their lived experiences in seeking law degrees and careers in law-related fields. Words such as resiliency, endurance, and perseverance often come to mind when Native Americans discuss their personal experiences in the legal academy. The following collection of essays are a contribution to the legal academy in the Indigenous tradition of storytelling shared as firsthand accounts through the seven authors’ perspectives. Within the personal reflections, the tenacity of Native people to succeed and overcome barriers is a common theme. Many of the contributors speak to the value of mentoring or becoming a Native lawyer to serve as a mentor. The compilation provides insight into the experience the authors share of a deep commitment to their Indigenous communities and to trailblazing for the next generation of Native lawyers.