Sacheen Whitetail, a citizen of the Standing Rock
Sioux tribe, brings a unique mindset to her studies
as a first-year student in the UND School of Law.
A double major in public administration and Indian
studies at UND, law school wasn’t always in
her mind. “I like to keep things in perspective
and didn’t even think about law school until
my junior year,” she said. Keeping things in
perspective is what has brought her this far.
In 2002, Whitetail had the opportunity to work for
the Internal Revenue Service and tribal governments
in Washington, D.C., through the Washington Internships
for Native Students (WINS). She gained six credits
and — more importantly — experience.
“I got to sit in on meetings dealing with tribes
and revenue,” she said. “I also saw the
government-to-government relationship firsthand. And
this is when I saw a need for Indian people in Congress.
This is where I also got an interest in law, but not
politics. I don’t think I could hold public
By taking Indian Studies classes at UND, Whitetail
first developed a taste for law: “I took Federal
Indian Law and Policy and found it very interesting.
I thought about some needs on the reservation and
found that a juvenile justice system needs to be present
on each reservation. It’s hurting the youth
by not having a system in place.”
Her interest in the law led her to a pre-law summer
institute this past summer at the University of New
Mexico Indian Law Center. “It was a four-class
program which helped me learn the basics,” she
said. “It was a great experience. I got a little
feel of what it would be like in the law program.”
What makes Whitetail successful is an approach that
fits her: “You can’t always be worried
about grades. Do what you can and try for the best.
Don’t stress out about grades. I think everyone
should look at the person all around. Don’t
just judge by what they do in class, but look at struggles
they have gone through. Look more into the person
than just the grades.”
Her family takes pride in her accomplishments. “My
mom is very proud of me,” Whitetail said. “She
is happy I’m taking the next step. I’m
also the first one in my immediate family to go to
graduate school. And I’m the first grandchild
on my mother’s side to have an undergrad degree.”
Whitetail hopes to get an internship this summer
at the Department of Justice in Washington D.C., and
plans to graduate from the UND Law School in 2006.
Editor’s Note: The writer, Daryl Sager,
is a member of Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and
a UND student majoring in communication and Indian
studies. He is currently writing a series of profiles
of American Indian students at the University.