Law in Contemporary Society

A Theory of Action for Becoming the First Woman Governor of the Chickasaw Nation

-- By MariHulbutta - 20 Apr 2018 (First draft; 999 words)

I. Introduction

This essay examines the premise of the idea proposed in my first essay from my personal perspective as someone who intends to devote her career toward advocating on behalf of tribes. In order to articulate the role I plan to fulfill in addressing the outsourcing problem, I need to consider the type of advocate I strive to be. My answer to ‘what kind of advocate do I plan to be?’ will likely change as I explore different settings in which to advocate. The objective of this essay is to describe my current and tentative answer to the question, and rule out the types of advocate I never want to be.

II. The Outsourcing Problem Viewed From My Experiences

The three years I spent working in Washington, DC prior to entering law school largely influences my current perspective. I spent my first post-undergraduate year at the National Congress of American Indians where I, alongside numerous tribal leaders, developed strategies for advocating their interests in Congress and the administration. I then spent two years working as a policy specialist at a litigation and lobbying firm in the Indian law practice group. Despite the public sector to private sector differences, both experiences equally informed my perception of the roles lawyers and lobbyists play in impacting developments in Indian affairs.

In my first month at the firm, the partner to whom I reported recognized the importance of a young Native woman aspiring to become a lawyer devoting time to critically think about the type of advocate she might want to be, and thus requested that I read a story detailing tactics that one particular tribal lobbying firm employs. Having worked closely with many of the individuals characterized as Native Jack Abramoff-types in the story – including the partner who assigned it to me – I was forced to consider why the tactics described in the story did not fully appeal to me.

Although I view the Abramoff scandal and its living successors, such as that involving the Miami Nation and payday lending mogul Scott Tucker, as cautionary tales of predatory tactics used against tribes, I believe tribes are nevertheless well-positioned to decide to employ advocates using any such tactics they choose. It is true that some tribes prefer to work with the Abramoffs of Indian Country just as there exists a dichotomy of tribal leaders being for or against gaming and tribes choosing to participate in the federal system or not. The element of choice is key to my premise that when tribes outsource, they risk hiring selfish advocates who underestimate their sophistication – precisely the advocate I try to avoid becoming. As more aspiring tribal advocates go to law school and pursue broad practice areas, tribes will have more options when hiring new lawyers for their innovative business ventures.

III. My Plan of Action

The angles from which I hope to serve tribes will vary as I work through the circuit that many tribal attorneys do in Washington, DC in order to gain a broad range of legal experiences early in my career. I plan to begin my journey at a firm where I know the lawyers there sincerely put tribal interests first. One of the benefits of having worked in DC with tribal leaders throughout Indian Country is knowing that the realm of Native legal practitioners is small, which makes it easy to compare firms and the attorneys they hire. After working at a firm for a few years, I will probably gain experience in Congress – whether as counsel to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs or being a staffer to a member of Congress who is Native or who has demonstrated support for tribal interests. Alternatively, I would consider working in the Administration as an attorney for Department of Interior’s Office of Solicitor or Department of Justice’s Office of Tribal Justice in order to improve the trust relationship between tribes and the federal government. I could also work at any of the several non-profit organizations in DC that advocate specifically for tribal interests. Long-term, however, my goal is to represent my tribe, the Chickasaw Nation, either in-house or at one of the firms we hire in DC or Oklahoma. Other avenues to serve my Nation include being a liaison at my tribe’s DC embassy, serving in any of our three legal departments, or serving in our tribal court system. Ultimately, I strive to be elected as the first (or second) woman Governor or Lt. Governor of my tribe.

In reflecting on what law school has taught me thus far, I find that I have a better understanding of the nexus between tribal sovereignty and the doctrinal courses I’ve been forced to take. Prior to law school, I knew that tribes, as sovereign nations, encounter legal issues spanning virtually every discipline of law. I now understand core doctrines embedded in some of those disciplines and their overlap with principles of tribal governance. When I pursue a broad course load to learn more of the language of the law, I will prioritize keeping sight of the kind of advocate I want to be.

Being an executive leader of my tribe after having grasped the language of the law will help me to convey my tribal community’s interests to people with power in American institutions. My decision to continue law school beyond the first year is influenced by the steps I took after college to affirm that this is the path I want to take – hence why I took time off to work for Native lawyers with my ideal ‘someday jobs’ and why I committed to the best school that discounted at least 75 percent of my tuition. My investment will continue to grow in value as long as I continue developing into the advocate I envision myself being. Overall, I am confident that my career will attribute meaning to my life and lasting recognition of the sacrifices my ancestors made in order for me to develop and follow the path I so choose.

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r1 - 20 Apr 2018 - 01:31:08 - MariHulbutta
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