Petition for Diverse, Inclusive, and Supportive Law Schools

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NNALSA Secretary
NNALSA Secretary signed this petition

National Native American Law Students Association's Petition for Diverse, Inclusive, and Supportive Law Schools

National Native American Law Students Association (“National NALSA”) is disheartened by the slow progression of law schools in becoming institutions which are inclusive, understanding, and supportive of their Native students. [1]  National NALSA is an organization which strives to support Native law students, Federal Indian Law, Tribal Law, and traditional forms of governance.  As such, National NALSA is requesting that law schools take steps to rectify this situation to foster an environment that is supportive of Native students and promotes diversity within law schools generally.  National NALSA sees issues within three main categories: (1) recruitment, (2) academics, and (3) cultural awareness.

These issues impact all law students and the legal field.  Many studies show the importance of diversity in the classroom.[2]  Over the last 50 years National NALSA members and alumni have helped increase the number of Native attorneys from fewer than 25 to over 2,500, argued Indian Law cases before the Supreme Court, and ensured Federal Indian Law issues appear on multiple state bar examinations.[3] 

If you support National NALSA's efforts to create a representative and supportive legal field, we ask that you sign the accompanying petition.  National NALSA will use this petition to demonstrate support for these pressing issues.  National NALSA understands that these issues will take time to rectify and will work with schools to develop strategies to meet the standards set forth below.  Further resources and information will be forthcoming to aid in these efforts and further expand on the present issues at law schools.

Standards to be Certified as a Native Friendly Law School by National NALSA

  1. Strive for a representative institution:
    1. Have a minimum of 2 Native students, a 1% Native student body, or a percentage of Native students equal to your local[4] Native population, whichever is higher.
    2. Have at least 1 Native faculty member or 1 Native administrator, at least 1 of which must be actively involved in recruitment and admissions.[5]
    3. Have a formal process in which the Dean seeks advice from Native alums.
  2. Facilitate education about Federal Indian and Tribal law by offering at least 1 Federal Indian Law Course annually, ensuring accurate representation and acknowledgment of Indian and Tribal law in courses, and providing supplemental educational opportunities.[6]
  3. Formally recognize and support students in celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day, Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month, and other events intended to support Native Peoples.
  4. Formally acknowledge the Nation(s) on whose ancestral land the school is located. At a minimum, this must be done on the official law school’s website, at orientation, and at graduation.
  5. Meet formally annually with the school’s local NALSA chapter, Native students, and/or National NALSA to discuss areas in need of improvement and strategies for moving forward.
  6. Properly address incidents of racial discrimination, bias, and microaggressions.[7]
  7. Provide an annual cultural competency program for students, administrators, and professors.
  8. Make substantial efforts to expose students to Tribal Courts, especially local Tribal courts.
  9. Equip offices with knowledge and resources to aid students wanting to work in Federal Indian or Tribal Law. For example, clerkship offices should have knowledge on Tribal court clerkships, bar support offices should have knowledge of Native Nations’ bar requirements, and career services resources.
  10. Provide an environment that is compatible with Native cultures. This includes culturally appropriate services, protecting cultural expression, displaying art and decor that accurately portrays Native culture, and welcoming the wearing of regalia at graduation and other ceremonies. 

National NALSA understands that these standards may be implemented differently at each institution.  National NALSA’s goal for this list is to empower Native students to advocate for their unique needs.  For a school to be listed on National NALSA’s website as a Native Friendly Law School, schools must have the approval of their local NALSA chapter or, if there is no local chapter, the approval of their Native students to remain on the list each year.  National NALSA will have two designations: certified schools that have met all the standards and those making substantial progress towards meeting these standards.  A more detailed guide on this process will follow. 

Thank you for your support and we look forward to a future in which law schools are more representative and supportive institutions.

Respectfully,

National Native American Law Students Association



[1] National NALSA recognizes that some law schools have made efforts towards these goals; however, all schools can and should do more in rectifying these issues.
[2] The Pursuit of Inclusion: An In-Depth Exploration of the Experiences and Perspectives of Native American Attorneys in the Legal Profession, National Native American Bar Association, https://www.nativeamericanbar.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/2015-02-11-final-NNABA_report_pp6.pdf
[3] Philip S. Deloria, The American Indian Law Center: An Informal History, 24 N. M. Law Rev. 285, 291 (1994); National Native American Bar Association at 10.
[4] The local Native population will be determined based on either your county or state population, whichever is higher.
[5] Additionally, facilitate meetings between candidates and Native students prior to making an offer of employment.
[6] Including, but not limited to recognizing that there are three judicial systems in the US (Federal, Tribal, and State) and acknowledging the Federal Indian Law section of an assigned textbook. Supplemental learning opportunities may include, but are not limited to bringing speakers to campus, funding conference attendance, working with other schools for semesters away or remote learning opportunities.
[7] This should at a minimum be through the institution’s regular channels but should also involve consultation with the local chapter or Native students to ensure the approach being used is properly addressing the issues at hand.