Louis Gray: A Native nominee for the Supreme Court
The changes have come fast and quick during this past campaign for President with the most crucial being the election of an African American as President of the United States. As predicted, it has been a different America since then. With the coming retirement of Supreme Court Justice David Souter this country should consider putting an American Indian on the Supreme Court like John Echohawk.

Echohawk is the Cool Hand Luke of big time Indian lawyers. Unshakeable and deliberate in all his decisions, Echohawk never rattles under the most intense pressure. He is a man who has not served as justice but that is not a prerequisite. In fact some would say he has not record to destroy or to pin him down on. But, he is a first class constitutional lawyer. You can’t debate the Native American in the highest court in the land without understanding the constitution. He has no peer.

Although his nasty streak of humbleness and total lack of ambition wouldn’t allow him to even contemplate this ascension to such a lofty height. But, if character and values count then he stands behind no man or woman of any color. If a studious approach to what is right is a prerequisite then stop looking, because here is your man.

If it’s loyalty you’re looking for, the Native American Rights Fund has had one Executive Director these past 32 years; John Echohawk. That goes for his staff, which routinely has going away parties for people who have worked there their entire working lives at one job; working for NARF. He sticks when others would have left for better paying positions or for a place of prestige in previous administrations (and believe me they’ve asked more than once). He may be the one man who would go to the Supreme Court kicking and screaming because he loves what he does so much.

It is not unthinkable or unreasonable for an Indian to be on the highest court. By some counts, depending on the term, Indian cases can dominate the docket. And they have always, always been decided by men and women who didn’t have one drop of Indian blood in them. And lately, that has meant a negative outcome for Indian people. We have to count on the wisdom and kindness of people unlike us to do the right thing.

If you think it’s not important then why has the court been dominated by white men? And only when the political muscles were flexed did the court see an African American and women seated to the court of courts. It’s not unusual for an Indian to be seated, it’s time and it’s right.

More on John E. Echohawk
John Echohawk, a Pawnee, is the Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund. He was the first graduate of the University of New Mexico's special program to train Indian lawyers, and was a founding member of the American Indian Law Students Association while in law school. John has been with NARF since its inception, having served continuously as Executive Director since 1977.

He has been recognized as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America by the National Law Journal since 1988 and has received numerous service awards and other recognition for his leadership in the Indian law field.

He serves on the Boards of the American Indian Resources Institute, the Association on American Indian Affairs, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. B.A., University of New Mexico (1967); J.D., University of New Mexico (1970); Reginald Heber Smith Fellow (1970-72); Native American Rights Fund (August 1970 to present); admitted to practice law in Colorado.

Louis Gray, the former publisher of The Native American Times, is a member of the Osage Nation of Oklahoma.

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