Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Supreme Court Justice Anne McKeig ’92 encouraged law students to continue to diversify the court system during a celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day on Monday at Mitchell Hamline.
When selecting judges, “we need a large pool of candidates,” said Walz. If people in the court system see a judge who looks like them presiding over their case, said McKeig, “you feel like somebody not only listened to you, but understood you.”
McKeig, the first Native American on Minnesota’s Supreme Court and the first Native American woman on any state Supreme Court, said there are positive signs that the court system is beginning to incorporate Native language, culture, and art into its buildings and spaces. She said it’s “crucial” to expand the number of Native judges, and she encouraged Native students to consider careers in the court system. “We have a long way to go in that regard,” she said.
Walz underlined his administration’s support for the state’s tribal nations. “The state of Minnesota is absolutely committed to the sovereignty of our 11 nations,” he said. “I want Minnesota to be the example.”
Before a backdrop that included the 11 tribal flags as well as the U.S. and Minnesota flags, Walz delivered a proclamation calling it Indigenous Peoples Day in Minnesota, an annual gubernatorial action that was started in 2016 by Gov. Mark Dayton. Columbus Day remains a federal holiday, but some state and local governments have officially moved instead to honor Indigenous Peoples Day. In Minnesota, Walz said, an official change would require action by the state Legislature, and he said he would support that change. “We can issue the proclamations yearly, but this needs to be codified,” the governor said.
Monday’s event was sponsored by Mitchell Hamline’s Native American Law Student Association.