Tahlequah, OK While many college students use summer
vacation to recharge, Cherokees Alayna Farris and Bryan Shade are
undertaking prestigious clerkships in Boulder, Colorado, and Washington,
Cherokee Nation citizen Alayna Farris began working for the Native
American Rights Fund in Boulder in June and will return in August
after 10 weeks with the legal firm.
Farris and Bryan Shade will complete their law degrees in
spring 2016. This summer they are working at clerkships with
the Native American Rights Fund and National Indian Gaming
Commission, respectively. (courtesy photo)
NARF specializes in protecting treaties and tribal sovereignty,
as well as providing legal representation to Native American tribes
and villages, organizations and individuals, according to the organization's
Nation citizen Alayna Farris is spending the summer in a clerkship
with the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder, Colorado,
where she is completing projects affecting Indian Country.
"I'm really excited for this opportunity to work with NARF,"
Farris said. "Growing up you always hear about the good work that
NARF does, and how they protect sovereignty and tribal rights, so
I applied. I was looking for a way I could get more experience working
with Indian Country."
Farris said she's hit the ground running at her clerkship.
"I'm currently working on analyzing a withdrawal case that is
in front of the 9th U.S. Circuit (Court of Appeals)," she said.
"Most of my first week was dedicated to working that case."
She added that preliminary research for her next project of
analyzing voting rights has started. And while Farris was initially
worried about the transition, she said she's found life at NARF
"The culture here is great," she said. "I don't feel like I'm
the stranger. I actually feel like I'm walking into a place I've
been for a long time. I thought I would just be talking to my supervising
attorney, Mr. (Matthew) Campbell, but every attorney has talked
to us, shared their experiences and gave some really good advice."
Farris wanted to become a lawyer after working with the CN Indian
Child Welfare Office for more than four years while completing her
undergraduate degree at Northeastern State University. In summer
2013, she resigned to begin pursuing a law degree at the University
of Arkansas, revitalizing its Native American Law Student Association
and opening herself up to possibilities.
"Indian Child Welfare is what really sparked my interest to
go to law school, and there's always a place for that in my heart,"
she said. "I want to make sure that our Indian children have all
the protection afforded to them by the law, but now that I've been
exposed to other areas I didn't know about. The door is wide open."
Keetoowah Band citizen Bryan Shade works on an ordinance review
at his clerkship in the Office of General Counsel at the National
Indian Gaming Commission in Washington, D.C. (courtesy photo)
Shade, a United Keetoowah Band citizen, in working for the National
Indian Gaming Commission's Office of General Counsel in Washington,
D.C., where he will remain through the end of July.
The NIGC is committed to the prompt and efficient regulation
of the Indian gaming industry, as well as ensuring the integrity
of the Indian gaming industry, according to the organization's Office
of Public Affairs.
"I've been interested in (NIGC) since I made the decision to
go to law school," Shade said. "I knew that this opportunity was
out there. I'm sure there were a lot of applicants for the position,
but I guess it was always something I knew I was going to try for."
Entering his fourth week with NIGC, Shade said he's settled
into the organization.
"Absolutely everybody in this office has taken me under their
wing. This is an amazing group of people. I think they all want
to see me succeed," he said.
His assignments include reviewing ordinance requests from tribal
regulating agencies and assuring that proposed gaming facilities
are on tribal lands in accordance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory
Act. He has also compared existing and proposed gaming compacts
and will soon be working with Freedom of Information Act requests.
"It sounds kind of cheesy, but every project that I've worked
on so far has been amazing," he said. "It was exactly what I had
in mind when I imagined what an internship here would be like."
Shade earned his master's degree in business administration
from NSU while working with the UKB and CN, where he assisted in
completing negotiations with Housing and Urban Development and Indian
"Within those negotiations, I started getting curious about
what the other side of the table looked like," he said. "I saw the
hard times we were having in negotiations, and I thought that going
to law school, learning to think like the people we were negotiating
with, was going to get me a lot further. This opportunity (with
NIGC) lets me achieve the goal of seeing the other side of the table."