An advocate for tribes
ASU Law graduate Racheal White Hawk passionate about making a difference
Editor's note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2016 commencement. See the rest here.
Racheal White Hawk is on her way to fulfilling her dream of using her law degree to work on behalf of tribal communities.
A 2015 Gold ’n Gavel Scholar, White Hawk thrived at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. She was a summer associate at Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP, and a judicial extern at the Arizona Court of Appeals and the United States District Court. A student with the Indian Legal Program, she was also a Sidley Fellow at the Indian Law Resource Center. Along with her JD, White Hawk, who grew up in Grand Island, Nebraska, also received certificates in Indian Law and Law, Science & Technology.
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: Over the years, I’ve had several mentors who have influenced me to work in Indian country. My “aha” moment probably happened while working at the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs for Judi gaiashkibos (executive director of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs). She was one of the biggest influences in my decision to pursue Indian law in particular. She works passionately every day on behalf of Native Americans, and working at the Indian Commission I got to help her make some tremendous impacts in Indian country. She very much inspired me to continue working on behalf of tribal communities. I felt energized and inspired while working at the Indian Commission, and I’ve felt that same passion working for tribes in law school.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU Law — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
A: I think it’s safe to say law school in general has changed my perspective. I’ve learned how to look at issues and think about them very deeply and critically, and I’ve learned to question things more. Law school has also made me a tougher person. There were many surprises in law school that shaped my perspective. But overall I believe I’ve grown into a much stronger, more resilient person because of those surprises and experiences.
Q: Why did you choose ASU and its law school?
A: I chose ASU Law because it has one of the best Indian Legal Programs in the country, and I knew my education at ASU Law would prepare me to work in Indian country immediately after graduation. I also chose the school because the faculty and students were very welcoming and when I visited it felt like the place for me.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Hard work and good grades are important and they will get you far in school and in life, but don’t forget to take time to care for yourself physically and mentally while studying. Also, take every learning opportunity that you can (whether it be in the classroom, in the workplace or among friends), and always be grateful for the lessons you’ve learned and the blessings in your life.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: My favorite spot on campus was Starbucks. Whether I went to the Starbucks in the bookstore, in the MU (Memorial Union) or in the business school, it was always my favorite spot because going there usually meant catching up with friends, getting some fresh air and drinking some coffee.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: After graduation, I will clerk for Chief Justice Scott Bales on the Arizona Supreme Court for one year. After that, I plan to work for Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie in their tribal affairs practice group.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I would undoubtedly put it toward the Rosebud Sioux Reservation (in South Dakota). I would use it as seed money to invest in the community to improve education, increase cultural resources, promote business on the reservation and employment, and alleviate addiction, substance abuse and domestic violence.