Training Future Advocates
Alumnus Dylan Hedden-Nicely takes over as head of Native American Law program
An enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, Dylan Hedden-Nicely has been a proud advocate for Native resources, water rights and legal education all of his professional life.
Now he's ready to broaden that scope even more. Hedden-Nicely joined the University of Idaho's College of Law this fall as an associate professor and director of the college's Native American Law program, a program he himself graduated from when it was under the direction of Professor Angelique EagleWoman.
“To me, if you want to live in Idaho, and you want to work and advocate for Native tribes and people, this is the ultimate position,” he said.
UI's approach encourages law students to work on concurrent degrees in law and water or natural resources, which is one of the things that attracted him to UI. He graduated with his Juris Doctor in 2011, and also earned a master's degree in 2012 through the water resources graduate program.
While attending his first year of law school, he met EagleWoman, who was a driving force behind establishing the school's Native American Law program and student association. EagleWoman took the position of dean of the Lakehead University’s Bora Laskin Faculty of Law in Canada in 2016.
The UI law faculty, especially EagleWoman, showed Hedden-Nicely how openness, collaboration and face time with faculty can make a difference for students in the program. He wants to continue the tradition of being available for mentorship to his students.
"Because of the value it has provided, I am very much invested in making sure it continues to make a difference," he said. "I want it to be as excellent as it was under Angelique."
College of Law Dean Mark Adams is confident in Hedden-Nicely's firsthand experience with the Native American Law program and his experience representing the Coeur d’Alene Tribe.
Hedden-Nicely has litigated nearly every aspect of the Spokane River Basin Adjudication for Howard Funke & Associates, a prime example of how the Native program's reach extends into real-world applications.
Hedden-Nicely's ties to Pacific Northwest tribes and beyond are invaluable to other students who may be interested in practicing Native law in their future, Adams said.
"It's a really nice fit for us for him to lead our Native law programs," Adams said. "It gives us a lot of instant credibility not only with the nearby Coeur d'Alene Tribe, but also the other tribes throughout the state and region."
Hedden-Nicely wants the Native American Law program to continue to attract students who are tribal members and nonmembers alike, ensuring they have access to an education and foundation in Native law that will bring them success in their careers.
Any attorney working in the West can benefit from learning more about Native law, he said, and he hopes to continue the program's outreach to high school students to show them law school is an attainable goal.
"The opportunity to develop those bonds and to help recruit and educate Native advocates is the ultimate thing for me," he said. "As an individual advocate, I could only do so much in my life, but if I can help train the next generation of advocates, that will be much more significant."
Article by Christina Lords, for the University of Idaho