American Indian leader praises Obama's first judicial nominee in Oklahoma

Chickasaw Nation Lt. Gov. Jefferson Keel says “politics” behind senators' complaints.
BY CHRIS CASTEEL ccasteel@opubco.com Published: February 9, 2011
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Inhofe said Tuesday that he had worked with other members of the congressional delegation to recommend a variety of people to the Obama administration for a wide range of positions. Some have been appointed, he said, while others have been dismissed with no explanation.

“The White House should be responding to suggested nominations that the congressional delegation — elected by the people of Oklahoma — has made, not blindsiding us as they did in the case of Arvo Mikkanen's nomination,” Inhofe said.

Lael Echo-Hawk, a member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and the president of the National Native American Bar Association, said, “Arvo is absolutely qualified, and we remain supportive of his nomination and confirmation.”

According to Keel and Echo-Hawk's organization, there currently are no enrolled American Indians serving on the federal bench. The National Congress of American Indians and the National Native American Bar Association have worked to promote Indians for judicial appointments.

Keel said it's important to have judges who understand tribal issues, not so they can advocate for Indians, but so they can have some perspective on matters that frequently confront the courts.

He said he has not been asked by the White House to reach out to Inhofe and Coburn and would wait to see how the situation evolves before contacting them.