President Obama Just Nominated the Very First Native American Woman For Federal Judge

Diane J. Humetewa, a member of the Hopi tribe and former U.S. attorney in Arizona, has been nominated to serve on the U.S. District Court for the district of Arizona as a federal judge. If confirmed, she would be the first active member of a Native American reservation, and first Native American woman to serve as a federal judge. Not only would this bring more diversity to the federal bench, but Arizona’s prominent Native community will finally be represented in a state that is infamous for ignoring Native issues.

This is a big deal because she is a Native woman from the same Arizona that has become a police state through its insistence on criminalizing communities of color, deportations, and via renegade leaders like Sheriff Arpaio. Arizona is swiftly becoming a state known for its extreme racial profiling regarding folks who look “brown.” 

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) lobbied for Humetewa's nomination and has been her supportor since he nominated her for the federal bench in 2007. This strange relationship between a Republican senator and an indigenous attorney will certainly give Humetewa the advantage when the decision is in the hands of Republican senators. In Obama’s first term he nominated Arvo Mikkanen of the Kiowa Tribe, but Republicans blocked the nomination.

Humetewa’s nomination could also mean longstanding political issues Native women experience such as the Violence Against Women Act will finally get their day in court.

Native American governing bodies notwithstanding, only 23 Native Americans have served in an elected office in the history of the United States. Yet, there are 5.2 million Native Americans living in the United States. Humetewa would only be the third Native American represented on the federal bench in the history of the United States if she is confirmed.

Due to the violent history between the United States and Native communities, Native Americans continue to fight for resources such as land, water, and mineral rights that have been destroyed and removed from us. Humetewa’s nomination could mean huge strides in fair Native representation and legislation that might be able to pave the road toward full equality and justice for all Native people.

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Maribel Hermosillo

Maribel Hermosillo is a contributor for PolicyMic's Identities column covering racial justice and feminism. Maribel has written for Rh Reality Check, Strong Families, The San Antonio Current, Yes Ma’am, Brown Queen and The Arts United of San Antonio. Maribel graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a focus on American Studies and Mexican-American Studies. Maribel's experience as a first generation queer woman of color deeply informs her writing and poetry. Maribel likes to take long reflective walks on mountains, hills and wooded areas. She resides in San Antonio, Texas.

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