The Northwest Indian Bar Association (NIBA) is a nonprofit organization of attorneys, judges, and Indian law practitioners in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. NIBA was established more than 20 years ago to improve the legal and political landscape for Pacific Northwest Native communities.

The goals of NIBA are: to represent and foster the education and welfare of Native attorneys, paralegals, and tribal court personnel of the Pacific Northwest; to provide role models and mentors in the legal profession for Native people, particularly Native youth and law students; and to encourage and promote pro bono legal work and civic involvement that benefits Native people throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Our membership includes Native attorneys, Native law students, and tribal court personnel, as well as non-Native attorneys who practice in the field of Indian law.

Throughout the year, NIBA sponsors various networking and educational events for our community. Our marquee event, however, is the NIBA Annual Fundraising Dinner, which raises funds for NIBA programs that support Native attorneys, law students, and pro bono legal clinics for Native people in the Pacific Northwest.

Recently, NIBA’s efforts have been particularly focused on programs that increase the number of Native attorneys in practice.

In 2015, the National Native American Bar Association (NNABA), of which NIBA is a member, conducted the first national survey of attorneys of Native American, Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian heritage across all settings, including private practice; government practice in state, federal, and tribal arenas; the judiciary; corporate legal departments; and academia. One of the four key takeaways from the NNABA survey was the need to address challenges in getting Native students interested in and admitted to law school, which has been a longtime focus area for NIBA. NIBA’s existing scholarship and bar study stipend programs have put it at the forefront of the national effort to recruit and retain Native law students. Every year, NIBA awards an average of $8,000 in scholarships to Native students in law schools in the Pacific Northwest, as well as an additional $3,000 of bar exam study stipends.

In addition, NIBA has expanded its law student support programs by offering small travel stipends to support: (1) undergraduate students attending the Native American Pipeline to Law Pre-Law Summer Program; (2) current law students attending the Native American Pre-Law Summer Institute; and (3) current law students attending the Federal Bar Association Indian Law Conference and Native American Law Students Association Annual Moot Court Competition. By awarding these travel stipends, we are helping remove barriers that prevent Native students from accessing resources and participating in events that develop future lawyers and foster community.

Thank you to the WSBA and, in particular, WSBA President Rajeev Majumdar for reaching out to NIBA to give us this opportunity to share our story with the Washington legal community.

This article originally appeared in the April/May issue of Washington State Bar News, published by the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA), and is reprinted with the permission of the WSBA.

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