The Honorable Diane J. Humetewa: Tips from Her Trailblazing Journey to the Federal Bench

As we continue to celebrate Native American Heritage Month, the Native American Law Students Association welcomed the Honorable Diane J. Humetewa at our Law Forum on Wednesday, November 16, 2022. Confirmed in 2014 as a United States District Judge for the District of Arizona, Judge Humetewa—a citizen of the Hopi Tribe—is the first female Native American to serve as a federal judge. She is no stranger to making history; she was also the first female Native American to serve as a US Attorney. Judge Humetewa shared details of her journey from her childhood village on the Hopi Reservation, which she noted is “one of the oldest continually inhabited places in the United States,” to her current role on federal bench. She credits her father for insisting that she be proficient in English and her mother for requiring that she remain connected with her Hopi culture and heritage. As a result, she successfully straddled two worlds, gaining perspective from both her urban and Hopi environments. Judge Humetewa’s path to becoming a lawyer, and now a federal judge, was forged as she was receptive to encouragement from superiors and gained the confidence to pursue opportunities that arose. This experience informs her advice to prospective lawyers: “Don’t be afraid to walk through doors that open for you. And don’t hesitate to approach someone who has a skill you want to learn, for example, `How did you develop your advocacy skills?’ or `How are you so at home in a courtroom?’” In learning from mentors, she says, lawyers can advance their education well beyond law school.

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