Legal Aid continues commitment to tribal nations

Equity audit serves as a benchmarking tool to assess diversity, equity, and inclusion at Legal Aid of Nebraska

Legal Aid of Nebraska recognizes its responsibility to learn and evolve as a statewide service provider employing and representing diverse groups and individuals in our mission to support equal access to justice. As part of these efforts, in March 2021, Legal Aid completed an equity audit with k+r strategies, a collaborative, majority Black-owned change navigation firm that centers equity and justice.

This audit included several specific recommendations for Legal Aid, which has long had an active and effective Native American Program, with respect to its work with tribal nations and Native community members. k+r’s recommendations included:

  • continue ongoing collaboration and consultation with tribal leaders
  • develop a land acknowledgment for Legal Aid of Nebraska
    • given that Legal Aid of Nebraska operates on the unceded lands of Indigenous tribes, Legal Aid feels it is important to consider these tribes in guiding future action
  • implement trainings and provide necessary information for all Legal Aid of Nebraska staff throughout the state to support and serve Indigenous clients and staff members

Following the audit’s final report, Legal Aid’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Committee got right to work, starting with creating a Land Acknowledgement statement, in consultation with local and statewide tribal leaders.

A focus on raising awareness and expressing appreciation

The purpose of Legal Aid of Nebraska’s Land Acknowledgement Statement is to raise awareness and express appreciation of the original and current Indigenous inhabitants and stewards of the land on which Legal Aid of Nebraska operates. 

More than that, Legal Aid has developed the statement to serve as ongoing guidance in our work to ensure inclusion and active collaboration with tribal nations, Native American communities, and Indigenous Peoples in Nebraska, and to communicate Legal Aid’s commitment as an active partner.

In developing this statement, along with an internal implementation guide for its staff, Legal Aid consulted with tribal leaders from the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and Iowa, the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, the Santee Sioux Nation, the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs, and Native American leaders in the city of Omaha. Based on continued consultation and advisement, Legal Aid intends for the Land Acknowledgement statement and usage guide to continue to grow and adapt throughout time.

“Equity audit serves as a benchmarking tool to assess diversity, equity, and inclusion at Legal Aid of Nebraska”

The current statement reads as:

Legal Aid of Nebraska acknowledges that its statewide locations are currently on the homelands of Indigenous Peoples.  Twenty-seven tribes have a connection to the land in what is currently known as Nebraska. We respect and are grateful for the stewardship and conservation of the land that these tribes have managed since time immemorial, and which continues today. Legal Aid recognizes that it is our responsibility as an organization to establish and maintain relationships with tribal citizens of these tribes and members of other tribes currently residing in Nebraska. Through our Native American Program, which serves enrolled or enrollment eligible Native Americans with legal matters in state, federal, and tribal courts in Nebraska, we work to support Native Americans and tribal communities through legal assistance and representation. We appreciate the partnerships we have with tribal nations in Nebraska, and recognize the responsibility we have to continue to listen to, engage with, and support Tribal Governments, Indigenous Peoples, and their inherent sovereignty.

Tribes and Nations with Connections to the Land in the State of Nebraska

The following federally recognized tribal nations have connections to the land of the state of Nebraska as the original inhabitants of this land and/or through the practice of forced removal. To learn more about these tribal nations, please click on a name from the list below to be redirected to the tribe’s website.

An internal usage guide, including PowerPoint templates, a pronunciation guide, website updates, and more, has also been created to assist Legal Aid of Nebraska staff with implementation.

Legal Aid appreciates the input and opportunity to receive feedback from tribal leaders in the development of this statement as a crucial step in creating a collaborative, accountable and respectful relationship with Indigenous nations and communities.

Kirby Williams, Outreach Coordinator, Native American Program at Legal Aid of Nebraska, is the author of this article.

(The Hero Image is a map provided by the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs depicting some of the tribal affiliations with the land currently known as Nebraska.) 

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