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Barbara Creel, a member of the Pueblo of Jemez, has returned to the clinical faculty at the UNM School of Law, contributing an expertise in Indian Country criminal defense, which she gained as an assistant federal public defender in the District of Oregon and an appellate public defender in New Mexico.
In addition to developing a federal habeas corpus and post-conviction proficiency during her seven years with the FPD's office, she assisted on Major Crimes Act cases, worked at the trial level and argued before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
She teaches and supervises students in the Southwest Indian Law Clinic and eventually hopes to add seminars to her class schedule.
Prior to returning to the UNM law school, where she taught in the clinical program in the mid-1990s, Creel worked as tribal liaison for the Portland District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, fostering government-to-government relations between the federally recognized Indian tribes and the federal government. She worked with tribal leaders, commanding officers, senior civilian managers, as well as the individual tribal members and corps staff, to translate complex Indian law issues among all parties and build relationships.
Her interest in the law and social justice emerged from her family, and especially her parents, who instilled in her a keen sense of fairness. As an Albuquerque fourth-grader, she was alerted to her potential in the art of diplomacy.
"I remember my teacher, Mrs. Barry, telling me I was a ‘diplomat,' in the classroom, that I had a smooth tongue and was good at bringing people together," she says with a laugh. Creel first became attracted to Indian law when she worked for the Native American Rights Fund during her undergraduate years at the University of Colorado.
Following graduation from the UNM School of Law in 1990, she worked for the National Advisory Council for Indian Education in Washington, D.C. In 1993, she joined the Native American Program of Oregon Legal Services in Portland, before returning for her first tour of duty in the UNM Clinical Law Program from 1995 to 1999.
Creel was a contributing author in the 2005 revision of the Felix S. Cohen Handbook of Federal Indian Law. In addition to clinical law and Indian law, her academic interests include the intersections of civil, criminal and constitutional law.
"The clinic is a wonderful way to mentor emerging leaders in the legal community, to harness the students’ energy to do wonderful things," she says. "It's exciting to be part of the UNM law faculty and to be back home."