Lance Morgan on the decline of federal Indian law:
“What we’re not teaching in law school is the other half of the system, where tribes are aggressively using their newly educated lawyers, their economic power, and their desire to do good to really change the equation.”
“Once you make the mental leap that the entire system is ridiculous…you don’t ever go back.”
Lance Morgan and the Rise of Tribal Law and the Decline of Federal Indian Law
Many NextGen Natives are practicers of, or generally interested in, federal Indian law. Lance’s article is great because it forces readers to ask themselves the question how can tribal law be on the rise and federal Indian law be on the decline? The basic point is that tribal law is an exercise of tribal sovereignty whereas federal Indian law is the enforcement of restrictions imposed upon tribes over the last few centuries. And the decline of federal Indian law may not be a bad thing necessarily, if tribes exercise and use tribal law. You should go read it (after you listen to our discussion, of course). Continue reading →
I worked with Lance and his company in my last job and had the chance to get to hear his story a bit as he told the story of Ho Chunk Inc. The two are intertwined.
After studying economics and earning a law degree (official bio below), Lance moved back to his tribe and within a few years, started to implement the idea he had been tinkering with to create a tribally owned company. It’s a bit crazy now to think that not too long ago, this was a revolutionary idea.
Lance grew with the company, and it’s currently generating about $250 million in revenue. It’s a shining success in Indian Country. And not just because of how much it earns, but what it does with its profits, creating housing on the reservation, running a used car company to help tribal members build credit.
Sharice Davids is a great example of how one’s journey can take curved routes. After spending many years abroad as a military child, she went to six different colleges before earning her degree. The remarkable thing about this though, is that each transfer was for a specific purpose such as to learn about computers, learn sign language, or play sports at a collegiate level. It was very focused, and contrary to what I think is often perception when people move around to different colleges.
Eventually Sharice earned her degree but it wasn’t long before someone at a coffee shop urged her to go to law school. Sharice attended PLSI in New Mexico prior to law school. While at PLSI, a mentor urged her to apply to Cornell Law School. Sharice doubted whether Cornell was the right school, at the time she had applied only to one. But she was admitted and ultimately went to New York.
After law school, she landed in Kansas City at the law firm now known as Dentons. She learned a lot about the law while at the firm from Steven McSloy. But Sharice also credits McSloy with showing her how to use and maneuver within spaces of power and that she could question people, institutions and even the law. Moreover that she did not have to accept it as it was. She cites this as the most valuable professional lesson she has learned. It is incredibly powerful to learn that you do not have to accept things in the world just because. I think this is a fundamental aspect of being a NextGen Native-that you have the ability to alter the course of your own life, of your career, of your community. Things are not set in stone. Continue reading →