Bree Black Horse: Senior Partner at Kilpatrick Townsend Law Firm | 39under39

BRee Black Horse said her mother reminded her from an early age that as a Native American she should be an example.

“(She said) you may be the only Native person people can meet, and I have to represent my people and my family appropriately,” said Black Horse, a citizen of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma. . “I consider it an honor to represent my people.”

Black Horse, 32, a senior partner at Seattle-based law firm Kilpatrick Townsend, not only represents tribal interests in the justice system, but also works to build representation for Indigenous women and other women of color.

While she was born and raised in the Seattle area, Black Horse, whose Indian name is Prized Woman, and her family used to come to White Swan for powwows.

She decided to become a lawyer, seeing the justice system as a way to help Native people, even though Native people have a complicated relationship with American law. She said the court system was used to force Natives off their lands and undo tribal culture through Indian boarding schools in the 19th and 20th centuries, and didn’t recognize Natives as U.S. citizens until 1924. .

“As a youth, I saw how the law negatively impacted our people, but also as a tool to advance our rights and tribal sovereignty,” Black Horse said.

She attended law school at the University of Washington, where she was a Douglas Nash Native American Law Fellow, which provides a two-year scholarship for Native Americans studying law, a recognition that Native Americans are the least represented group among Americans. lawyers.

In 2020, the American Bar Association found that less than half of 1% of lawyers were Native American, even though Native Americans make up 1.4% of the population. By comparison, 86% of lawyers were non-Hispanic whites, while Hispanics and blacks each made up 5% and Asians 2%.

Although she was the only Indigenous woman in some contexts, Black Horse said she was never intimidated because she knew she was there to represent Indigenous people and her heritage gave her unique perspectives.

“I am descended from warriors and people who survived, endured and overcame unimaginable circumstances,” Black Horse said, adding that the Seminoles were among those who forcibly marched to what is now Oklahoma on the trail of tears.

“I think of what they had to go through, and (my challenges are) nothing in comparison.”

During her studies, she co-founded the American Indian Law Journal and served as its editor. She also worked at the US Department of Justice’s Office of Tribal Justice and clerked for a federal judge in Montana.

She worked for Galanda Broadman in Seattle, a law firm specializing in Native American issues, before moving to Yakima in 2019 to take up employment with the Yakama Nation as a lawyer providing legal aid.

“When I was presented with the opportunity to move to this community, I was thrilled,” Black Horse said. “Although COVID is present the whole time we are here, we really enjoy being part of this community and growing our relationships here.”

In 2020, Kilpatrick Townsend hired her for his Native American practice group. But she took the job knowing she could stay in Yakima. She is admitted to practice in 12 tribal courts, as well as federal courts. Although she enjoys being in court, her preference is tribal courts, where she said there is a greater focus on community and fewer barriers to participation, such as court costs.

And she also helps break down barriers for Indigenous women and women of color who want to become lawyers. She uses some of her free time to help young Indigenous women navigate the law school application process. She sees in it the transmission of the help she received from people in her early days.

As a board member of the Yakima Chapter of Washington Women Lawyers, Black Horse co-founded a scholarship program for women of color from the Valley, or with local ties, who wish to attend college. by right or who are already attending .

“It’s a need we’ve seen in the organization to close that gap,” Black Horse said.

The Seattle-based Share Group provided a $30,000 grant to help fund the scholarships and hopes to launch it later this year. The money, she said, would go to the recipient rather than the institution.

She is also Chair of the Legal Committee of the Washington Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and President-Elect of the Indian Law Section of the Washington State Bar Association.

She and her husband, lawyer and Nez Percé citizen, Derek Red Arrow Frank, enjoy outdoor activities such as skiing and hiking on Mount Adams. Black Horse also has a 12-year-old stepdaughter.

Profession: Principal associate of the law firm Kilpatrick Townsend

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