Lindsay Early was raised in Cache, Oklahoma as a proud member of the Comanche Nation. Growing up in a traditional Comanche family, she learned that tribal government is essential to maintaining sovereignty. She knew from a young age that she wanted to give back to her community, and attended the University of Oklahoma to earn a bachelor’s degree in Sociology.
“I was interested in learning how an individual’s race, religion, socioeconomic status, and education helped to shape his or her decisions,” said Early, OU alumnus.
Early started her career at the Chickasaw Nation’s Division of Commerce where she worked in Indian Gaming at the Riverwind Casino. She says this experience helped her realize how economic development ventures, such as gaming, benefit tribal citizens as well as non-members of tribes.
She proceeded in her career and decided to earn her Master of Legal Studies in Indigenous Peoples Law from the University of Oklahoma to be better informed about laws and regulations regarding Native Americans.
“I think it is vital for tribal leaders to be informed about legal issues that may affect their citizens, natural resources and economic development,” Early said.
Located in the heart of the original Indian Territory, The University of Oklahoma College of Law offers an innovative Master of Legal Studies in Indigenous Peoples Law program. This graduate degree program is designed for non-lawyers who deal with contracts, negotiations and other issues that demand knowledge of Native American policy, regulation and business practices.
“In my career, it is vital to be informed with up-to-date regulations concerning Indian child welfare, natural resources, and economic development,” said Early. “I was chosen for my current position based on my education and experience in Indian country. I applied and was accepted into the Americans for Indian Opportunity’s prestigious Ambassadors Program, which is an indigenous leadership program for up and coming Native leaders.”
The Master of Legal Studies in Indigenous Peoples Law program is an online program that offers a broad perspective on Native American law to non-lawyers or lawyers who wish to enhance their understanding of the field. The program is designed for working professionals who need to be able to complete their courses while working full-time.
“During the completion of my master’s degree, I was the project manager for Edith Kassanavoid Gordon Assisted Living, which is owned and operated by the Comanche Nation,” Early said. “I was in charge of ensuring the building met all required codes, budgeting, staffing, and writing the application for licensing by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. It is the first assisted living of its kind to offer Western medicine merged with indigenous values. I was able to balance my course work with my busy schedule very well. The Masters of Indigenous Peoples Law was instrumental in helping me to write the Oklahoma State Department of Health application as well as the Policy and Procedures for the center.”
When you’re considering a graduate program, it is important to choose an area of study that interests you, a school that is well known in your specific area of interest, a program that will fit within your schedule, and a faculty that has experience both in the classroom and in the workforce. MLS in Indigenous Peoples Law classes are taught by individuals with decades of experience and national reputations as leaders in the field of Indigenous Peoples law.
“During the course of my studies, my professors taught me to view laws and regulations through a historical context,” said Early. “It is helpful to examine the political and social climate at the time different federal Indian policies were passed.”
Early has already received a lot of useful insights that she can use in her daily job, and she knows she will continue to use the valuable information she gained in the MLS in Indigenous Peoples Law program.
“I hope to continue writing legislation and policy that positively effects Indian country,” said Early. “The Masters of Legal Studies in Indigenous Peoples’ Law has helped me in my current position, and I am sure it will help me as I advance.”
While she received many benefits from the MLS in Indigenous Peoples Law program, Early admits that one of her favorite things was interacting with other tribal leaders and working to solve problems in Indian country.
“Sharing solutions from our own unique experiences has helped me immensely,” Early said. “I would highly recommend this degree to current and emerging tribal leaders, or anyone that works in Indian country.”