2014 Year in Review: The Navajo Hopi Observer looks back at this year's big stories

First American Indian woman confirmed to federal bench

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - The U.S. Senate confirmed the first American Indian woman and a member of the Hopi Tribe as a federal judge in May with a unanimous vote after a lengthy confirmation process.

The U.S. Senate voted 96-0 to confirm Diane Humetewa as a federal judge. She serves in the Federal District Court of Arizona.

Humetewa left her position at Arizona State University (ASU) where she served as special advisor to the president for American Indian Affairs. She also served as the chairperson of the ASU Tribal Liaison Advisory Committee and was a member of the provost's Native American Advisory Council, where she worked to promote higher education opportunities among Arizona's tribes.

During law school, Humetewa spent a semester working as an intern on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. After law school, she returned to D.C. to work on Sen. John McCain's staff on that committee - this time as deputy counsel. Her career at the Department of Justice included work as a special assistant to the Office of Tribal Justice.

In 2007, McCain recommended her for nomination as U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, where she served for two years. She was the first American Indian woman to be appointed as a U.S. Attorney.

As a professor of practice in the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law and special advisor to the president, Humetewa taught Indian law and worked to improve the retention and success of American Indian students at the university.

President Barack Obama nominated Humetewa to be a federal judge in 2013.

Alfred Lomahquahu, vice chairman of the Hopi Tribe, said the day was a historical one, not just for the United States "but for all Hopi Senom." He said that Humetewa was an inspiration to all Native Americans, especially Native women across Indian country. He added that he knew Humetewa would complement the federal bench with her robust knowledge and the caliber of expertise she had acquired during the course of her career working to protect citizens across Indian country and throughout Arizona.

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly extended the congratulations of the Navajo Nation to Humetewa and her family.

Humetewa was born and raised in Arizona. She began school on the Hualapai reservation and traveled throughout Arizona's Indian country with her father, who worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She maintains close ties to her family and culture on the Hopi reservation.

Lomahquahu said that as the buzz and excitement of the confirmation traveled around the country and tribal headquarters, he had a message for those in future generations who may follow in Humetewa's footsteps to emulate her path to success. He said that with tenacity, dedication and perseverance, the possibilities are endless.

Humetewa received her Juris Doctor degree in 1993 from ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law and her bachelor's degree from ASU in 1987.

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