Final Public Engagement Tour Stops Held in Scottsbluff and Rushville

Final Public Engagement Tour Stops Held in Scottsbluff and Rushville

Monday, September 19, 2022

The Nebraska Consortium of Tribal, State, and Federal Courts, co-chaired by Judge Andrea Miller and Judge Patrick Runge, traveled to two locations in western Nebraska to engage in conversations with Nebraska’s Native American communities. Consortium members, as well as Chief Justice Michael Heavican, Justice Stephanie Stacy, Justice Jeff Funke, and Justice John Freudenberg, joined facilitator Ret. Judge William A. Thorne in Scottsbluff and Rushville in mid-August.

Thorne, a Pomo/Coast Miwok Indian from northern California, was formerly a judge on the State of Utah Court of Appeals and in the Third District Court. He has served as a tribal court judge in 10 states and is the former president of the National Indian Justice Center, a non-profit that trains tribal court personnel around the country.  He is nationally known as a leading expert on policies and programs to support children, particularly Native American children, and their families.

Also attending were Jonathan Seagrass and Adam Harper of Legal Aid of Nebraska who provided participants with a “Know Your Rights” presentation. Runge and Miller presented information on the purposes of the consortium, and Thorne led participants through an open dialogue regarding feelings about the court system. Participants and consortium members shared a meal at each location, and a local community leader provided a traditional prayer.

Attendees aired grievances and frustrations with state, federal, and tribal courts as they have experienced them. The exchange also included information and possible shortfalls of the Indian Child Welfare Act and jurisdictional issues.

This was the second of the two planned engagement tours that involved Native peoples in the conversation to help improve relations between tribal, state, and federal courts and the communities they serve. The first engagement tour was held in November of 2019, with sessions in Omaha, Niobrara, Macy, and Winnebago.

Read more in the Scottsbluff Star Herald: Sharing Native American Experiences