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The current political discourse in the United States has reached a new level of divisiveness where opposing parties have gone to their respective corners with little peacemaking to bridge the divide. In the midst of this troubling state of affairs are hundreds of tribal nations, which are wisely buffering their own governments from the fray while remaining observant of the state of play. This lecture will examine how current trends in the American political discourse may have a collateral or direct impact on tribal nations' sovereign rights and authorities for better or for worse and what role Native American legal practitioners can play in this dynamic, changing landscape. The speaker, Hilary C. Tompkins, will bring her experience as a Native American woman and former Solicitor of the U.S. Department of the Interior to offer her insights as to what influences government decisionmakers in Indian affairs law and policy and how current dynamics can offer opportunities and risks for tribal nations, as reflected through recent, significant court rulings.
Hilary C. Tompkins is a trailblazer in the legal profession as a Navajo woman who has served at the highest levels of government. Hilary recently served in the presidentially appointed, U.S. Senate-confirmed position of Solicitor for the U.S. Department of the Interior (from 2009 to 2017), the third highest ranking position at the Department that is responsible for the oversight of all legal matters facing the agency. Hilary currently is a partner with Hogan Lovells in Washington D.C., with a practice in environmental, energy, and Native American law. She also was recently selected to serve on the Board of Trustees for Dartmouth College.
As Solicitor, Hilary led more than 300 attorneys in the diverse areas of onshore and offshore energy development (conventional and renewable), the administration of federal water projects, conservation and wildlife legal requirements, federal Indian law, and public land law. She oversaw litigation on behalf of Interior, including cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Her accomplishments include development of legal reforms following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the successful defense of the first renewables on public lands, and legal clearance for the establishment of multiple national monuments. She also led the historic settlement of the Cobell tribal trust litigation—a class action lawsuit filed against the United States by hundreds of thousands of individual Native Americans for breach of trust. Hilary also issued multiple Solicitor’s Opinions in support of tribal rights, including on the topics of Carcieri, reservation boundaries, the trust relationship, and treaty rights, as well as advanced tribal interests in Supreme Court cases, such as Bay Mills, Dollar General, and Nebraska v. Parker.
Prior to her federal service, Hilary served as chief legal counsel to a former New Mexico Governor, represented Indian tribes, and began her legal career in the prestigious honors program as a trial attorney in the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where she handled civil prosecutions in environmental cases across the nation.
Ms. Tompkins earned a J.D. from Stanford Law School (1996), a B.A., Dartmouth College (1990), and was awarded an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Humane Letters from Dartmouth College in 2019. She is admitted to U.S. District Court, District of New Mexico, U.S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia and the U.S. Supreme Court.
This annual lecture is named in honor of William C. Canby Jr., of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, a founding faculty member of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and the Indian Legal Program.
Judge Canby was born in St. Paul, Minn., and graduated summa cum laude from Yale University in 1953, and from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1956, Order of the Coif. He served two years as a Judge Advocate General in the U.S. Air Force, then clerked for Associate Justice Charles Evans Whittaker on the U.S. Supreme Court in 1958-59. During his tenure as a law clerk, the Supreme Court decided Williams v. Lee, a case that sparked Judge Canby’s lifelong interest in Indian law. He returned to Minneapolis and practiced law at Oppenheimer, Hodgson, Brown, Baer & Wolf.
In 1962, Judge Canby and his wife, Jane, helped establish the Peace Corps in Africa, serving ﬁrst in Ethiopia, then as a Director in Uganda. Returning to the United States, he served as Special Assistant to Sen. Walter F. Mondale, then as an assistant to Harris Wofford, President of State University of New York at Old Westbury.
Judge Canby came to Arizona in 1967 as a founding faculty member of ASU’s College of Law, taught the ﬁrst classes in Indian law, and was instrumental in the creation of the Indian Law Program. He also devoted numerous hours to assisting Arizona farmworkers and other citizens in need of legal help. While at ASU, Judge Canby visited Uganda as a Fulbright Professor of Law at Makerere University (1970–71). In 1999, he returned to Ethiopia in an attempt to facilitate peace during the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He was elected as new member of the American Law Institute in 2013.
As both a professor and a jurist, Judge Canby has become known as an expert in American Indian law. He has testiﬁed before Congress, and authored law review articles, a major textbook, and Canby’s American Indian Law in a Nutshell, now in its ﬁfth edition. While still a professor at ASU, he successfully argued Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that the First Amendment allows lawyers to advertise in a manner that is not misleading to members of the general public.