Maurisa Bell grew up on the Wind River Reservation in Riverton, Wyoming. She is an enrolled member of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and was also raised around her Northern Arapaho family. In 2015, she graduated from Montana State University in Bozeman, MT and completed the Pre-Law Summer Institute program during the summer of 2016. While in law school, Maurisa served as Vice President and Treasurer for the MSU-NALSA, an Area representative for National-NALSA, and volunteered as a student mentor for the Indigenous Law and Policy Center.
She spent her summers in Washington, D.C. working for the Department of Justice’s Office of Tribal Justice; the National Indian Gaming Commission; and Dentons, US LLP in their Native American Law and Policy practice group. She is a dedicated and driven leader who, in just a few weeks, will graduate from the Michigan State University College of Law.
Maurisa will work for Dentons upon graduation, pursuing her passion in helping tribes and tribal communities.
Corporations, churches and even canasta clubs have more rights under U.S. law than American Indian tribes, and respect for human rights and basic fairness demand this must change, says a veteran Indian lawyer and rights advocate.
“All we want is ordinary justice,” Tim Coulter, a Potawatomi Indian and director of the Indian Law Resource Center in Helena, said Friday.
Coulter, who has battled for Indian rights for 40 years and has been honored by Columbia University for his work, spoke to a crowd of about 100 attending the American Indian Law and Resistance Symposium at Montana State University.
Congress has the power to take Indian tribal lands, seize millions of dollars from Indian accounts, take over tribal governments, and even wipe out the legal existence of tribes, Coulter said.
Injustice toward Indians is deeply imbedded in U.S. law, he said. The entire legal framework of U.S. Indian law is based upon the notion that the federal government possesses “plenary powers,” which aren’t written anywhere in the U.S. Constitution, but were invented by the U.S. Supreme Court, he said. That idea has been enforced by the government for the past 200 years.
Just as the black civil rights movement of the 1960s dismantled the racist “separate but equal” laws, Indians need to dismantle the racist framework of laws that deny their rights, he argued.