This September we are highlighting Native Bruin Jennifer R. Leal from the Washoe and Paiute tribal community, Class of 2005.
Jennifer R. Leal is a descendant of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California and Mono Lake Paiute tribal communities. She graduated from UCLA in 2005 with a bachelor of arts degree in American Indian studies and a minor in political science. She completed her master of arts degree in American Indian Studies in 2017 with a concentration in history and law.
In 2018, Jennifer founded the Field of Tribal Courts, a consulting organization where she currently works to offer tribal court education to both Native and non-Native audiences. She also offers consulting services in tribal court administration development to tribes across the country. Earlier this year, she taught a class she created called “Tribal Judicial Administration in California” for the California Tribal College and taught “Introduction to American Indian Studies” at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. This fall, Jennifer plans to teach two classes for Alaska Tribal Court Personnel at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She also has been selected to present at the National American Indian Court Judges’ Association Conference for the Tribal Court Personnel Track in October 2023. When she is not working on consulting projects or teaching, she volunteers with a group of tribal court personnel who are working towards creating a national nonprofit for tribal court personnel.
Jennifer is the granddaughter of an Indian boarding school survivor and is a first-generation college graduate. In 2002, she transferred to UCLA from Cuesta College and participated in the “Building Tribal Partnerships in Education” and “Working in Tribal Communities” classes, which served as a foundation to seek relationships with her tribes. Jennifer’s involvement with the “Nation Building: Developing Tribal Governments/Courts” class (taught by Professor Pat Sekaquaptewa), the tribal legal development clinic, and the Tribal Law and Policy Institute helped develop her strong interest in tribal courts.
After she completed her graduate coursework, she began her career as a tribal court administrator, where she managed her tribe’s 30-year-old court and worked with other personnel to create informal tribal court personnel associations in California and Nevada. She has worked with national tribal court education programs and has presented on tribal court education to international delegations from Egypt, Jamaica, and Ukraine. Jennifer gives credit to UCLA for providing her with a strong foundation in tribal court education and teaching her the importance of leadership. She considers the friendships she made from AAP, AISA, AIGSA, NALSA, TLCEE, AIS faculty, UCLA’s law school faculty and staff, AISC, AICC, KD, Colorguard, and the local LA community as part of her “village” of support and has contributed to her success at UCLA. Her “village,” along with the UCLA education she received while being a guest on the ancestral lands of the Tongva people, have given her the tools to continue to advocate for tribal sovereignty and foster a career towards problem-solving challenges facing tribal courts today.