Native Americans

Native Americans are the least represented of all applicant groups; fewer than 500 a year even apply to law school, and many of those have few or no ties to their tribal culture. As our awareness of the differences among native cultures expands, this "category" has come to include Eskimos, Native Alaskans, Canadian First Nations, Aleuts, and any other cultures represented in North America before the Round Eyes arrived. Native Hawaiians can rightfully include themselves in this category as well, rather than as Asian/Pacific Islander.

To the extent that a Native American still identifies with her or his tribe, or lives near a reservation, that person may well have experienced discrimination and the effects of negative stereotyping. Native Americans have frequently been held to the lower socioeconomic classes, and have suffered from poor educational systems as well.  

If you are Native American, my best advice to you is to ignore LSAT score in choosing a law school. If your grades are in the range a school might want, your recommendations are solid, and your LSAT score is within 10 points of the school's 25th percentile, apply if you can afford it. (If you can't afford it, ask the school for a fee waiver).  Another approach is to look at the acceptance grids in the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools 2011  If anyone at all was accepted with your numbers, you have a chance of being accepted.

Make sure you include a diversity statement with every application, explaining your relationship to your Native American heritage.  Have you visited a reservation? Do you know the location of your tribe? How knowledgeable are you about your tribe and its customs? The more you are familiar with your culture, the more a law school will be interested in you.  Also include your tribal affiliation and per cent of Native American ancestry, as well as your tribal or BIA registration number.

Several schools have special strengths in Native American Law (Arizona State, New Mexico, Minnesota and Cornell come to mind, but there may well be other programs). If you are interested in studying tribal laws and government regulations affecting Native Americans, you should contact these schools by phone and express your interest.  Make sure you talk with a minority recruiter or someone knowledgeable about the Native American program.  

Caveat:  If there was a Native American somewhere in your family ancestry, but you can't name the person, don't know what tribe they were a part of, or have made no effort to be part of Native American culture, don't expect checking the appropriate box to make a difference in your ability to be accepted.  The vague notion that your grandfather was part Indian is not sufficient to grant your file special consideration.  


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