Spring 2021
Message from the director
I hope this newsletter finds you well. It has been another successful year for the KU Tribal Law & Government Center (KU TLGC) and it is my pleasure to update you on the center's accomplishments.

The TLGC celebrated its 25-year anniversary in 2020. Former Professor Robert Porter established the center at KU in the fall of 1995. Since then, 42 students have earned the Tribal Lawyer Certificate and hundreds of others have taken the expanded variety of Indian law classes the school now offers. For 25 years, the TLGC has equipped students and legal professionals with the skills necessary to appreciate and strengthen the unique nature of indigenous tribal legal systems. The TLGC plans to host an in-person celebration in honor of the center's 25-year anniversary in fall 2021.

In this edition of our annual TLGC newsletter, you'll learn about a KU Law team receiving the highest advocacy honors at the National Native American Law Students Association Moot Court Competition. KU Law also signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations to provide skills development training for diplomats. And lastly, an alumna was selected for a fellowship in the Andrew Carnegie Fellows class of 2020.

TLGC alumni continue in the proud tradition of helping Indian country. Regularly, we receive notes updating us on the amazing work our alumni are doing, and we are very proud. If you have news that you would like to share with us, we would love to hear from you. Some of our alumni are highlighted below.

Rock Chalk!

Shawn Watts
Director, Tribal Law & Government Center
Director, Mediation Clinic
Clinical Associate Professor
785-864-4513 | shawn.watts@ku.edu

February 26-27, 2021
Annual NNALSA Moot Court Competition
Grand Forks, North Dakota

October 11, 2021
Indigenous Peoples' Day

November 2021
Native American Heritage Month
KU Law team claims top advocacy prize at Indian law moot court competition

A KU Law team received the highest advocacy honors at the National Native American Law Students Association Moot Court Competition in February.

Third-year law students Karen Fritts and Zachary Kelsay received the competition’s first-place award for Best Overall Advocates at the University of California Berkeley School of Law. Kelsay and Fritts also placed in the top three out of 68 teams at the competition.

This is the fifth time in the past six years that KU Law has placed in the top three at the NNALSA competition. KU Law teams brought home the national championship in 2016 and 2019 as well as second-place finishes in 2015 and 2017.

KU Law partners with UN to train diplomats on indigenous issues, conflict resolution

Students at KU Law have the opportunity to train diplomats on indigenous issues and conflict resolution as part of a new partnership. KU Law recently signed a memorandum of understanding in May with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research to provide skills development training for diplomats at the UN.

KU Law students and faculty will lead training sessions on topics related to the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Sustainable Development Goals. The 17 sustainable goals in Agenda 2030 cover issues including eliminating poverty, eliminating hunger, gender equality and quality education.

KU Law student selected to serve on National NALSA Board
In April, third-year law student Aidan Graybill was selected to serve as the Area 3 Representative for the National Native American Law Students Association. Graybill represents NALSA chapters in Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.

Through her role on the National NALSA Executive Board, Graybill participated in an episode of The Jabot podcast in July. In the podcast, she discussed the exclusion of Native voices in a study by the Center for Women in Law and NALP Foundation. 

Alumna strives for change
Professor Sarah Deer, L’99, has dedicated her career to ending violence against women in Native American communities. For nearly 30 years, she has advocated for the protection of Native women and worked with survivors.

Her scholarship and advocacy focus on the intersection of federal Indian law and victims’ rights. She was instrumental in the development and passage of landmark legislation that protects Native American women from gender-based violence.

Earlier this year, she was selected to be in the 2020 class of Andrew Carnegie Fellows. Through the fellowship, Deer will author a book, Indigenous Democracies: Native Women and the Future of Tribal Nations in the United States, about the basis of indigenous democracies in Native women’s political activism.

In September, Deer was appointed as a University Distinguished Professor in KU’s Department of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies. She has a joint appointment in the School of Public Affairs & Administration and is a courtesy professor at KU Law.

Gaining unique legal perspective through Tribal Judicial Support Clinic

Through participation in the Tribal Judicial Support Clinic, 3L Aidan Graybill conducted research on issues that directly impact tribal self-governance and gained an unique legal experience in tribal law.

“Working in the clinic allowed me an opportunity to develop a clearer understanding of the basic concepts of tribal law and sovereignty in an environment where I could directly apply it," Graybill said.

Aidan Graybill, L'21, (left) and Tara Hammer, L'23 (right).
KU NALSA chapter update
KU’s NALSA chapter had another exciting year on campus. First and foremost, our team earned the most points toward KU Law’s Moot Court ranking at the National NALSA Moot Court Competition. 3Ls Karen Fritts and Zachary Kelsay received the competition’s first place award for Best Overall Advocates. Our chapter had three other teams that made it to the competition, and we are so proud of the work they did as individual teams and as Best Overall Advocates.

Our chapter also participated in hosting lunch-hour events and tabling on campus. We were lucky to have Becky Howlett, L’14, speak with students about careers in Federal Indian Law and bring more exposure to our organization on campus. We also tabled for Indigenous People’s Day, raising awareness of the ancestral Kaw, Osage, Potawatomi, Kickapoo and Ioway lands that our school sits on.

We are very excited to start another year welcoming many new members into our chapter. Our newly elected president, first-year law student Tara Hammer, is a graduate of Haskell Indian Nations University, received a Master of Public Health from the KU Medical Center, and worked as the energy sustainability specialist for the Citizen Band Potawatomi Nation before coming to KU to focus on tribal and environmental law. Our new vice president, 1L Kevin Barnett, came to KU after working as an Indian child welfare worker for the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, and hopes to continue his work raising awareness on the issues Native communities face in his time at KU. Our outgoing president, Aidan Graybill, L’21, is now serving on the National NALSA Board as the Area 3 Representative, serving NALSA chapters in Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.

While most of our programming and Moot Court Competition will take place virtually, we hope to make the most of the 2020-2021 academic year by taking every opportunity we can to build community among our members. We are as proud as ever of our membership, and we are grateful for your continued support of KU’s NALSA chapter!

By Aidan Graybill, L'21; KU NALSA President, 2019-20
and Tara Hammer, L'23; KU NALSA President, 2020-21
Alumni news

In every newsletter, we highlight the accomplishments of some of our KU Tribal Law & Government Center alumni. 

Holly Zane, L’86, is now the associate director of Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area for Kansas and Missouri. The organization helps protect, preserve and educate the public about bleeding and civil war Kansas and Missouri and Underground Railroad sites. Zane retired from the State of Kansas after more than 32 years of service, most recently with KU and the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex.

Sarah Deer, L’99, was selected for a fellowship in the Andrew Carnegie Fellows class of 2020. Fellows are chosen for their quality research addressing important and enduring issues confronting society. Deer will use the funding to complete a book on a new era of visibility for contemporary Native American women as political activists.

Joshua Arce, L’05, was appointed as the new president and chief executive officer of Partnership with Native Americans, a Native-led and Native-serving nonprofit organization.

Report your alumni news and update your contact and employment information at law.ku.edu/keep-touch. Have a story of interest to fellow alumni? Contact Margaret Hair at mhair@ku.edu