Michelle L. Cook – Board Chair
Michelle is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation and born of the Honághááhnii (One Who Walks Around You) clan. She is a founding member of the Water Protector Legal Collective and is a Commissioner on the Navajo Human Rights Commission. In 2015, Michelle received her Juris Doctorate (J.D.) from the University of New Mexico School of Law with a certificate in Federal Indian law and is, currently, a Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) Candidate at the University of Arizona’s Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program. Her dissertation concerns the intersections of indigenous human rights, divestment, and gender in the United States. Michelle has received major grants and fellowships opportunities including a Fulbright Fellowship to study indigenous justice and customary legal systems in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Michelle frequently engages in public advocacy and speaking. She created an intersectional indigenous-led divestment campaign “The Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegation to Europe” calling for European banks and institutions to divest from fossil fuels in support of indigenous peoples human rights. Her work has been featured in Reuters and has been interviewed by Glamour, The Guardian, and Cultural Survival International. She has also has testified before UN bodies and representatives.
Holly Bird – Board Treasurer
Holly T. Bird maintains a private practice in Traverse City, MI, concentrating in matters of Native American, family, criminal, civil, probate, employment and business law. In addition, she has served as an associate judge, Chief Judge, and currently, an Assoc. Supreme Court Justice for several tribal courts. Holly was honored to served as the Civil Ground Coordinator for WPLC, and founded and serves as the Executive Director for the MI Water Protectors Legal Task Force. She has presented to the United Nations twice regarding the violations of Indigenous human rights. A graduate of Michigan State University and DePaul University College of Law, she’s authored the publications: “Jumping Through Hoops: Traditional Healers and the Indian Health Care Act,” (1999) and “Making the Cross-Cultural Case; Educating the Judge about Race, Religion, and Ethnicity” (2004). After law school, Holly was a Hearing Officer for Chicago Public Schools, and was appointed as a Guardian Ad Litem for the Cook County Public Guardian’s Office in 2000, where she represented over 230 children in the abuse/neglect system. Founder of the Illinois Native American Bar Association, she’s credited for using her advocacy to remove offensive sports mascots from several Illinois schools. A mediator, peacemaker, arbitrator, she was awarded the prestigious American Arbitration Association’s 2013 Higginbotham Fellowship. Holly also serves as a member of the Mindimooyenh Healing Society. She is descended from the San Felipe Pueblo/Yaqui/Apache tribes and English Isles and resides in northern Michigan with her family.
Rachel Lederman – Board Secretary
Rachel Lederman is coordinating WPLC’s team of cooperating civil rights attorneys on the Dundon lawsuit. She is a people’s lawyer based in the San Francisco Bay Area who sues police, landlords, and employers, represents prisoners, “delinquent” youth and people in involuntary mental health commitments on appeal, and pursues compensation for accident victims . She is a founding member of the Oakland Law Collaborative, past President of the National Lawyers Guild SF Bay Area Chapter, currently one of the co-coordinators of its Demonstrations Committee, and a member of the national NLG Mass Defense Steering Committee and NLG National Police Accountability Project. Rachel has successfully defended thousands of political demonstrators and has obtained significant victories in impact litigation to stop police and government repression of dissent over the last thirty years.
Daniel is K’asho Got’ine Dene from Radili Ko (also known as Fort Good Hope, Northwest Territories). As K’asho Got’ine Chief Negotiator he manages his community’s self-government negotiations with Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories. Daniel holds a J.D. from the University of Victoria and a B.Sc. in mathematical sciences from McMaster University. Daniel has worked in the areas of education, journalism, government policy, unskilled labour, and lands and environmental management in Dene communities with a focus on climate change adaptation and mitigation. In his free time Daniel is a practitioner and trainer of non-violent direct action tactics and strategy, with a focus on environmental and climate justice and assertions of Indigenous sovereignty. He is also a founding member of Dene Nahjo, a northern non-profit dedicated to advancing social and environmental justice for northern peoples while promoting Indigenous leadership by fostering emerging leaders.
Juliana Repp, Nez Perce tribal member, was an indispensable volunteer attorney on the ground at Oceti Sakowin camp during the fall and winter of 2016-2017. A tireless advocate for the underprivileged, she is currently a Managing Attorney with the Unemployment Law Project in Spokane, WA. Juliana has served as a Public Defender, as a Legal Services attorney, as chair of the Nez Perce Tribal Enterprise Board, Interim Chief Judge at Nez Perce Tribal Court, Administrative Law Judge for the Colville Tribes, and on the Court of Appeals for the Suquamish Tribe. She was in private practice for more than twelve years representing clients in family law cases, including ICWA cases, civil rights, enrollment cases and general civil matters, in multiple jurisdictions. Juliana has practiced law in numerous tribal courts including those of the Nez Perce, Coeur d’Alene, Colville, Kalispel, Spokane, Standing Rock and Yakama Nations, as well as the state and federal courts of Washington and Idaho.
Martie Simmons is a citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin. She has a Bachelor of Business Administration, an HR Professional license, and is an Army Veteran. She attends the University of Arizona College of Law as a 3L and will graduate in 2020 with her Juris Doctor and a certificate in Indigenous Law and Policy. She is the current chapter President of the U of A Native American Law Students Association (NALSA). Martie has done work with the Human Rights Advocacy Clinic, working on strategies to stop pipelines on Indigenous lands. This summer she worked with the Ho-Chunk Nation Department of Justice, as a Legal Intern, updating the domestic violence codes for the Domestic Abuse Division. In the past, Martie worked as a contributor to Edge of Morning: Native Voices Speak for Bears Earsand had Op-Eds in Indian Country Today. She has also contributed to various social media campaigns that work to protect Indigenous sovereignty and inclusivity, like the Save the Mounds Rally, NoDAPL, and Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry. Currently, Martie Simmons lives with her two children in Arizona.
Ophelia R. Rivas
Ophelia R. Rivas, O’odham, VOICE Against the WALL, founder of O’odham Rights Cultural and Environmental Justice Coalition. The O’Odham nation lives on both sides of the US-Mexican border, and for that they are persecuted. The place where Ophelia comes from is beautiful land. O’Odham have lived there for centuries and have a way of life that they’ve followed for all those years. They continue parts of it right now, but the political effects that are imposed on the people is because of these borders are greatly impacting our people. After 9/11 the world discovered that there was the O’Odham nation, which is the second largest reservation in the United States after the Navajo. These reservations are considered concentration camps of the indigenous people in the United States. These traditional lands are divided into different political boundaries. Less than one-third of their lands are now cordoned off, like a concentration camp.
Pat Handlin is a criminal defense and civil attorney based in Chicago who has represented numerous Water Protectors facing misdemeanor charges stemming from the Standing Rock No DAPL movement. Pat spent time staffing the legal tent at Oceti Sakowin camp in winter 2016 and has been one of our most active Pro Hac attorneys, continuing through 2019. She is also providing pro bono legal research support for the challenge to TC Energy’s permit application to use water for the KXL pipeline. She has been a public defender, legal services attorney, administrative law judge on employment discrimination matters, represented numerous Occupy Chicago activists, and has litigated to protect victims of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.
King Downing is a lawyer and founder of the Human Rights-Racial Justice Center (H2RJ), which advocates and organizes for criminal and economic justice. Previously, he was the Mass Defense Director for the National Lawyers Guild, directed the Healing Justice Program of the American Friends Service Committee, and was National Coordinator of the ACLU’s Campaign Against Racial Profiling. King was also part of the Ferguson Legal Defense Committee and was an early organizer in Jena, Louisiana supporting the Jena 6, Black high school students charged with attempted murder for a fistfight with a white student.
Jeffrey Haas is a criminal defense and civil rights attorney who represents progressive movements and victims of police abuse. A founding partner of the People’s Law Office in Chicago (1969-2003), he was co-counsel in Hampton vs. Hanrahan which exposed the police and FBI murder of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, and a successful campaign to expose Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge’s legacy of torture. He now lives in New Mexico, where he defended Mora County’s ban on fracking in civil suit by Shell Oil, and served as Chair of EcoViva, which works toward sustainable development in Central America. Author of The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther, a renowned book that is currently being turned into a Hollywood film.