2015 Alumni Dinner

NALSA is excited to host our Second Annual Alumni Awards Dinner on Thursday, October 22, 2015 from 6:00 - 9:30 pm at the Omni New Haven Hotel. The dinner will be held as a part of YLS’s 2015 Alumni Weekend. We will honor Arvo Mikkanen ’86 (Kiowa/Comanche) for his extraordinary contributions to Native nations and the Indian law field. Mr. Mikkanen is currently serving as the Assistant U.S. Attorney and Tribal Liaison for the Western District of Oklahoma.

NALSA Second Annual Alumni Awards Dinner
Thursday, October 22, 2015
6:00 p.m. - Cocktail Reception
7:00 p.m. - Dinner
Omni New Haven Hotel

The evening promises to be a wonderful opportunity for alumni and current students to socialize, build connections, and acknowledge the contributions of an extraordinary advocate and public servant.

Arvo Mikkanen '86 (Kiowa/Comanche)

Arvo Q. Mikkanen, a Kiowa/Comanche attorney, has a juris doctor degree from Yale Law School which he received in 1986. Mr. Mikkanen is currently an Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma and was appointed to this position in 1994. His primary responsibility as a federal prosecutor has been handling criminal matters in federal court, including homicides, child sexual abuse, child physical abuse, assaults & domestic violence, bank robberies, illegal possession of firearms by felons & illegal aliens, illegal immigration enforcement, theft, robberies, arson, fish & wildlife offenses, assaults against federal officers, drug possession offenses and other violent crimes. He was the Department of Justice’s first designated “Tribal Liaison” in a U.S. Attorney’s Office and is the primary contact for the 21 tribal governments in his district.

From 1988 to 1994, he worked as an attorney in civil business practice with Andrews Davis Legg Bixler Milsten & Price, an Oklahoma City law firm and served as an adjunct professor of law and Associate Director of the Native American Legal Assistance Clinic at the Oklahoma City University School of Law from 1988 to 2000. From 1988 to 1994, he also served as a trial and appellate judge with the Court of Indian Offenses and Court of Indian Appeals for the Anadarko Area Tribes. From 1991 to 1994, he served as the Chief Justice of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Supreme Court. During his period of service on these courts, Mr. Mikkanen handled hundreds of hearings and wrote close to twenty formal opinions, the majority of which are published on Westlaw. 

He is a 1983 Phi Beta Kappa and honors graduate of Dartmouth College, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Government, and Certification in Native American Studies. After graduating from Yale Law School, Mr. Mikkanen worked as a law clerk for federal judges at the United States Claims Court in Washington, DC and at the United States District Court of the Eastern District of Texas. He is a member of the American, Federal and Oklahoma Bar Associations, has served as the president of the Oklahoma Indian Bar Association since 1990, and was the president of the nationwide National Native American Bar Association in 1991 and again in 1995. He has lived in Oklahoma since 1988 and is 51 years old.

In 1992 he received recognition from the Oklahoma Bar Association by receiving the Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award. He also received a similar award from Oklahoma Indian Legal Services, Inc. for Pro Bono Service in 1992. In 1994 he received a Special Appreciation Award from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma and in 1997 he also received a Meritorious Service Award from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for his efforts at improving the investigation and prosecution of crimes in Indian country. He received the 2003 Sonja Atetewuthtakewa Award for Distinguished Service in the Protection of Native American Children and in 2004 he received the American Bar Association Commission for Racial and Ethnic Diversity's Spirit of Excellence Award. In 2011, he was the recipient of the Exceptional Service Award from the National Association of Former U.S. Attorneys. In 2012, he received the U.S. Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service in Indian Country from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. 

He is frequent instructor for law enforcement and attorneys, having given over 150 workshops, symposia, and instructional seminars. He has also repeatedly served as an invited faculty lecturer for prosecutor training seminars at the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Advocacy Center in Columbia, South Carolina.

He is an enrolled member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma and a member of the Kiowa Gourd Clan men’s warrior society. He is married to Tracey Satepauhoodle-Mikkanen, has two children, Brandon and Julia and lives in Norman, Oklahoma. He is the son of Cornelia Quoetone Karty and the late Jackson Mikkanen. His maternal grandparents were William “Bill” Quoetone, a drafter of the original Kiowa Constitution, and Lottie Quassicker Quoetone.

Past Honorees

In 2014, NALSA honored Kevin Washburn '93 (Chickasaw) with our first ever Alumni Achievement Award. Mr. Washburn currently serves as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior. In addition to carrying out the Department’s trust responsibilities regarding the management of tribal and individual Indian trust lands and assets, the Assistant Secretary is responsible for promoting the self-determination and economic self-sufficiency of the nation’s 566 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and their approximately two million enrolled members.

Mr. Washburn came to the Department of the Interior from the University of New Mexico School of Law where he served as Dean, a post he held since June 2009. Prior to that, he served as the Rosentiel Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law from 2008 to 2009, and as an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School from 2002 to 2008. From 2007 to 2008, Mr. Washburn was the Oneida Indian Nation Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School.

Previously, he served as General Counsel for the National Indian Gaming Commission from 2000 to 2002, and as an Assistant United States Attorney in Albuquerque, N.M., from 1997 to 2000. He was a trial attorney in the Indian Resource Section of the U.S. Department of Justice from 1994 to 1997. From 1993 to 1994, he clerked for the Hon. William C. Canby, Jr., of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Phoenix.

His past awards in federal service include the Environmental Protection Agency’s Bronze Medal for Commendable Service (2000) for representing the agency in successful Clean Air Act litigation and Special Commendations for Outstanding Service from the Justice Department (1997, 1998).

Mr. Washburn, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, is a well-known scholar of federal Indian law. Among his other books and articles, he is a co-author and editor of the leading legal treatise in the field of Indian law, Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law (2012 edition). Through his writings and testimony, he has influenced public policy in both criminal and gaming law in Indian Country.

Mr. Washburn was raised in Oklahoma and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics with Honors from the University of Oklahoma (1989). He also received a Juris Doctorate from Yale Law School (1993), where he was the editor-in-chief of the Yale Journal on Regulation. He has been a member of the American Law Institute since 2007, and is a member of the State Bars of Minnesota and New Mexico. Mr. Washburn is married with two children.

Past Events

American Indian and Alaska Native women face proportionally higher levels of violence than any other group of women in the United States. Sliver of a Full Moon follows the story of five Native women and two Native men who worked to restore tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Native perpetrators of domestic violence on tribal lands in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. While celebrating this historic victory, Sliver of a Full Moon also emphasizes that this solution is narrow. Consequently the play asks: what will it take to restore the jurisdiction of all tribes to protect the lives of all Native women.

Learn more about the play and VAWA: http://www.sliverofafullmoon.org


American Constitution Society; Asian Pacific American Law Students Association; Ethnicity, Race, and Migration Program; Law Students for Reproductive Justice; Lillian Goldman Law Library; Native American Cultural Center; Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights; OutLaws; Program for the Study of Reproductive Justice; Temporary Restraining Order Project; Vice Provost for Diversity; Women of Color Collective; Yale Group for the Study of Native America; Yale Law Journal; Yale Law Women; Zelia & Oscar Ruebhausen/Debevoise & Plimpton Student Fund.

  • Tribal Nations and the Violence Against Women Act
  • Sliver of a Full Moon: A Nationally Acclaimed Play about VAWA's Restoration of Tribal Sovereignty to Protect Native Women
  • Lunch with James Anaya, Former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Climate Change and Native Nations: The Search for Legal Remedies
  • Native Peacemaking: A Traditional Approach to Conflict Resolution
  • Tribal Nations and the Obama Administration: A Conversation with Jodi Gillette, Special Assistant to the President for Native American Affairs
  • Native Amicus Briefing Project Introductory Session & Training
  • 2015 State of Indian Nations Viewing Session
  • "The UN and Human Rights: Why US Engagement Matters" with Keith Harper, US Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council
  • Coffee Chat with Sam Deloria from the American Indian Law Center
  • Beyond the Indian Commerce Clause
  • 2015 Inaugural NALSA Alumni Awards Dinner
  • "Tribal Self-Governance in the 21st Century" with Kevin Washburn '93, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs

Equality vs. Exceptionalism: The Role of Race in Federal Indian Law

April 5, 2014

Race has played a profound and complicated role in the United States’ legal and political treatment of Indians. On the one hand, the federal government has used American racial ideology and taxonomy to strip tribes of autonomy, resources, and humanity. On the other hand, the courts and Congress have also problematically conflated race and political status as a way of understanding and regulating tribes as political entities. This panel will explore how this unique history interacts with recent equal protection jurisprudence and has impacted the political position of tribes and Native people. How will the increasing illegitimacy of governmental racial classifications affect laws designed to preserve and advance tribal self-government and cultural survival? How can the tension between formal equality and the distinct status of Indian tribes be reconciled to secure Native rights and justice? 


·         Kristen Carpenter, Associate Professor of Law and Co-Director, American Indian Law Program, University of Colorado Law School

·         Matthew Fletcher, Professor of Law and Director of the Indigenous Law & Policy Center, Michigan State University College of Law

·         Angela R. Riley, Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law; Director, UCLA American Indian Studies Center; and Co-Director, Native Nations Law and Policy Center

·         Gerald Torres, Bryant Smith Chair in Law, University of Texas at Austin School of Law

This panel was part of Yale Law School’s 2014 Critical Race Theory Conference. To learn more about the conference, please visit: http://www.law.yale.edu/news/crt2014.htm


Environmental Law in Indian Country: Building Tribal Capacity

March 1, 2014

The past decade has seen a surge of interest in environmental law in Indian Country, from tribes exercising their authority to regulate environmental pollution on their reservations, to a Montana tribe recently negotiating a deal that will make them the first tribe to own and operate a hydroelectric dam. And it is becoming increasingly clear that tribal environmental and energy policy can have far-reaching regional impacts. This workshop will explore tribal capacity building in the context of environmental and energy law, as more and more tribal governments assert control over their natural resources and develop the capacity to implement environmental regulations under federal regulations like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Panelists will discuss the mechanisms for tribal capacity building in this area, the importance of these developments, and the arising jurisdictional questions.


Bethany Berger, Thomas F. Gallivan, Jr. Professor of Real Property Law, UConn School of Law

Jordan Thompson, Associate General Counsel, Energy Keepers, Inc., Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes

This panel was part of Yale Law School’s 2014 New Directions in Environmental Law Conference. To learn more about the conference, please visit: http://www.law.yale.edu/news/2014envirolawconference.htm


Deconstructing the "Baby Veronica" Case: Implications for the Future of the Indian Child Welfare Act

February 21, 2014

In June 2013, the Supreme Court decided Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, a widely publicized case involving the adoption of a Cherokee child by non-Natives over the objections of her Cherokee father. At the heart of the controversy was the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law designed to protect the best interests of Native children and promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families. This panel will explore the history behind this landmark law, the current landscape of Indian child welfare, and the implications of the "Baby Veronica" decision for the future placement of Native children. Additionally, panelists will discuss how their organizations collaborated with both tribal and non-tribal stakeholders to develop legal, media, and other advocacy strategies for the case as part of the Tribal Supreme Court Project.


·         Jacqueline Pata, Executive Director, National Congress of American Indians

·         Joel West Williams, Staff Attorney, Native American Rights Fund

·         Claire Chung, JD Candidate 2014, Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic, Yale Law School

·         Moderator: Sparky Abraham, JD Candidate 2014, Yale Law School

This panel was part of Yale Law School's 2014 Rebellious Lawyering Conference. To learn more about the conference, please visit: http://www.yale.edu/reblaw.


Book Discussion: The Round House by Louise Erdrich

February 13, 2014

NALSA joined with Professor Ian Ayres to host a group discussion on The Round House, the 2012 novel by Louise Erdrich that deals extensively with issues of criminal justice in Indian Country. Through the stories of its characters, the novel highlights the intertwining systems of federal Indian law, tribal law, and state law, while also painting a vivid picture of life on an Indian reservation in North Dakota. 


2014 State of Indian Nations Address - Viewing Party

January 30, 2014

Each year, the President of the National Congress of American Indians presents the State of Indian Nations address to members of Congress, government officials, tribal leaders and citizens, and the American public. The speech outlines the goals of tribal leaders, the opportunities for success and advancement of Native peoples, and priorities to advance our nation-to-nation relationship with the United States. The speech is delivered to a live studio audience in Washington, DC and broadcast across the nation and around the globe to policymakers, citizens, and students. 


Reclaiming the Past: Indian Tribes & the Law of Cultural Repatriation

November 11, 2013

NALSA hosted a panel discussion of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and other issues surrounding cultural repatriation.


·         Honor Keeler (Cherokee), Wesleyan University's repatriation coordinator

·         Elizabeth James-Perry (Aquinnah Wampanoag), her tribe's Senior Cultural Resources Manager

·         Jaime LaVallee (Muskeg Lake Creek), the former notice coordinator of the national NAGPRA program at the National Park Service


The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934: Henry Roe Cloud’s Vision for Indian Policy and Current Challenges to Tribal Self-Determination

November 8, 2013

The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (IRA) initiated a new era in federal-tribal relations by reversing the allotment of Indian lands and promoting tribal self-government. Henry Roe Cloud, Yale's first Native American graduate, played a prominent role in the IRA’s development as a Merriam Report staff member and Bureau of Indian Affairs official. Although tribal reaction to the IRA has been mixed, in recent years Indian Country has rallied to support Section 5, which authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for tribes. While tribes have relied on this section to help slow the terrible losses of land resulting from allotment and pursue economic development and self-determination, it has been challenged in the courts, particularly in the Supreme Court’s recent Carcieri and Patchak decisions. During this event, Colin Cloud Hampson, an Indian rights lawyer, will reflect on Dr. Roe Cloud’s vision for Indian self-government in light of modern debates about tribal self-determination and economic development. 

Colin Cloud Hampson, a descendent of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and the White Earth Band of Chippewa, is a partner in the firm Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson and Perry, LLP, a national Native American rights firm. He manages the firm’s San Diego, California office. He joined the firm in 1994 and is engaged in all areas of the firm’s Indian law practice, including Indian gaming, jurisdiction, economic development, tax, water, self-determination, and environmental law. Mr. Hampson graduated with distinction from Stanford Law School in 1994.  Mr. Hampson also received a Master of Arts degree in International Policy Studies and a Bachelor of Arts degree in American History from Stanford University in 1991. 


NALSA Movie Night: Screening of Miss Navajo Documentary 

November 7, 2013

NALSA hosted a screening of Miss Navajo, a documentary about Navajo life that follows the lives and families of the contestants that participate in the Miss Navajo cultural pageant.

View Press Release: Navajo Nation Supreme Court Sitting at YLS

The YLS community had the opportunity to host the Navajo Nation Supreme Court, November 14, 2011