The United States will finally have its first Native American woman serve as a federal judge. Though she has not received her official post yet, Judge Diane Humetewa, a member of the Hopi tribe, received a unanimous confirmation vote of 96 to 0 from the Senate.
The significance of the appointment was enough to garner bipartisan support. Humetewa’s reputation for being a fair and knowledgeable judge has also helped to earn her fans on both sides of the aisle. President Barack Obama’s appointment had the overwhelming approval of both of Arizona’s Republican senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake. Both senators expressed their excitement to see the revered judge serve their state and country at a higher level.
Previously, Humetewa had the distinction of being the first Native American woman appointed as a U.S. Attorney by a president. Between 2007 to 2009, she prosecuted cases that pertained to the Native American community, including violence and archaeological resources.
In addition to her role with the federal government, Humetewa has also served as both a prosecutor and a judge for the Hopi tribe. Outside of that role, she has successfully advocated to give Native Americans access to higher education, specifically by building a relationship with Arizona State University.
Decades ago, Jimmy Carter was the first president to appoint a Native American man, Judge Frank Howell Seay, to serve as a federal judge. In recent years, however, no judge of Native American descent – man or woman — has held this title.
“As the only Native American in active service on the federal bench, Diane provides much-needed expertise on the complexities of federal law and Indian sovereignty,” said Senator Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat who chairs the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
Native Americans have largely praised Humetewa’s appointment and confirmation, hoping it is a trend that will continue. “There is still a massive lack of representation of Indian judges in the federal courts,” said Chris Stearns, a Najavo who worked for the House Natural Resources Committee.
The National Congress of American Indians added, “[We] greatly appreciate the efforts of the president and the Senate in achieving this historic confirmation. There are many qualified, talented people like Diane Humetewa in Indian country who are able and willing to serve. We eagerly anticipate many more nominations of Native people to the federal bench and other offices.”