Federal Indian law is a complex body of jurisprudence that encompasses issues involving the Federal-Tribal trust relationships, jurisdiction, and separations of power. Kathleen, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, began her legal career in this area of law as a student at the University of Tulsa College of Law where she wrote a published Comment for the Tulsa Law Review Journal about jurisdiction entitled, “Order in the Courts.”
As an Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma, Kathleen negotiated compacts with tribes and federal agencies that addressed child abuse reporting and cross-deputization agreements for law enforcement. She became one of the first tribal liasions, representing the federal government in its government-to-government relationship with tribes. As a tribal attorney at the Department of Justice's Child Exploitation Section, she specialized in the prosecution of crimes against Indian children and provided training to tribal and federal investigators assigned to these complex cases. Kathleen then served as a project manager under Attorney General Janet Reno, developing the implementation of more effective programs designed to improve criminal justice initiatives on tribal lands. Kathleen continued her work with promoting equal access to justice of Indian citizens as an Assistant United States Attorney in New Mexico, where she also served as Tribal Liasion. Kathleen continues to teach and speak on Indian country jurisdiction, including frequent lectures for the National Indian Justice Center (NIJC). With NIJC she developed curricula for the investigation and prosecution of DUI cases within Indian country. Kathleen also has represented tribal corporations under federal investigation, and she has represented tribes on environmental issues.
Kathleen currently serves as a Commissioner for the Nevada Indian Commission, a member of the Stewart Indian School Advisory Project, and as a member of the United States Sentencing Commission Tribal Issues Advisory Group (TIAG). She serves as Chair of the Youthful Offenders Subcommittee for TIAG.