Native Lawyers Who Argued Before High Court Celebrated

First 13
Twelve of the 13 (l-r): back row: James Anaya, Terry Pechota (PLSI), Rodney Lewis (PLSI), William Rice, Martin Seneca (PLSI). Front row: Susan Williams, Melody McCoy (PLSI), Jeanne Whiteing (PLSI), Marilyn Miles, Dale White (PLSI), Heather Kendall-Miller (PLSI), Raymond Cross.

The first 13 Native American lawyers to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court were celebrated in a unique symposium at the University of New Mexico School of Law in March. During the day-long event, 12 of the 13 lawyers, eight of whom are graduates of the Pre-law Summer Institute at the American Indian Law Center, discussed and reflected upon their experiences at the court.

The event titled, The First Thirteen – Personal Reflections of the Argument, was conceived by Dale White (Mohawk), one of the 13. He has practiced in the field of Indian law for 30 years. In his role as the symposium’s master of ceremonies, White interviewed the lawyers in small groups. He asked them about their cases, the preparations for their arguments, the day of the argument itself and its impact on their careers and on the field of federal Indian law.

The participants came from across the country and Alaska to participate in the symposium. They are judges, law professors, Native American advocacy lawyers, tribal and federal officials and lawyers serving Native people and tribes.

First 13
Stephen Lewis, Lt. Gov. of the Gila River Indian Community, left, visits with his father, Rodney Lewis, and William Rice during a break.

In addition to White, the 12 history-making lawyers in attendance were James Anaya (Purepecha and Chiricahua Apache ancestry), Raymond Cross (Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara), Heather Kendall-Miller (Athabascan), Rodney Lewis (Gila River Indian Community), Melody McCoy (Cherokee), Marilyn Miles (Kickapoo), Terry Pechota (Rosebud Sioux), William Rice (Keetoowah Cherokee), Martin Seneca, Jr. (Seneca Nation), Jeanne Whiteing (Blackfeet Nation) and Susan Williams (Sioux). Missing was Arlinda Locklear (Lumbee). 

The symposium was sponsored by the Law & Indigenous Peoples Program at the University of New Mexico School of Law, the American Indian Law Center, the New Mexico Indian Bar Association and the| Indian Legal Program at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

March 21, 2012