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MAIBA Mission and History

What is MAIBA?

MAIBA is a non-profit organization of American Indian attorneys, law students, and officers of tribal courts. The organization also welcomes non-Indian attorneys and law students who are interested in Indian law.

Mission Statement

As members, we seek the wisdom and knowledge necessary to meet our goals of:

  • Promoting unity, cooperation, and the interchange of ideas among persons associated with Indian law;
  • Promoting the education of the public in regards to the legal issues affecting Indian people and Tribal governments; and
  • Promoting justice and the effective legal representation of all Indian people.

MAIBA History

On a cold November day in 1990, sixteen American Indian attorneys came together at the Minneapolis American Indian Center. At the same time, another group of American Indian attorneys met on the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. The participants of these two coordinated gatherings founded what is now known as the Minnesota American Indian Bar Association (MAIBA), and formally incorporated the organization in February 1992. There were 25 American Indian attorneys listed in MAIBA’s first membership directory. MAIBA lawyers practice in a variety of areas including administrative law, family law, corporate law, juvenile law, civil law, commercial law, construction law, contracts, criminal law, employment law, environmental law, federal Indian law, and gaming law, in both the private and the public sectors.

Prior to the organizational meetings of MAIBA, many of the lawyers had not met each other. There have been a small number of American Indian lawyers in Minnesota’s history. The numbers have increased in recent decades. The creation of MAIBA provided a formal network, support system, and sense of collegiality for American Indians practicing law in Minnesota and those with an interest in Indian law.

The inaugural event of MAIBA was a luncheon on November 23, 1991 featuring the first American Indian to serve as a state attorney general, Larry Echohawk of Idaho. The first year of the organization saw the group define itself and its purposes.

The first officers of MAIBA were President Jeffrey A. Crawford (Forests County Potowatomi), Vice-President Shirley Cain (Red Lake Nation), Secretary-Treasurer Robert A. Blaeser (White Earth Anishinabe). The first MAIBA Board of Directors included the following members Mary Al Balber (Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa), Kurt BlueDog (Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe), Paul Day (Leech Lake Band of Chippewa), Anita Fineday (White Earth Band of Ojibwe), Terry Mason Moore (Osage), Joseph Plumer (Leech Lake Bank of Chippewa) and Lenor Scheffler (Mdewakanton Dakota). The diversity of law practices and tribal affiliations reflected in the first Board of Directors and Officers continues to today.

MAIBA has been and continues to be committed to building and maintaining relationships with Twin Cities urban Indian organizations and the 11 tribal communities in Minnesota. The organization rotates its meetings between Twin Cities urban Indian organization meeting facilities and the meeting facilities of the 11 tribes.

Over the years MAIBA members have been active participants of the Minnesota Supreme Court’s Racial Bias Task Force and Implementation Committee, the Foster Care Task Force, the Policy-Community Relations Committee, the Minnesota Tribal Court/State Court Forum, and other committees and boards serving the bench and bar of Minnesota. A number of MAIBA’s founding and current members serve as judges for the State of Minnesota and for Tribes.

Additionally, the MAIBA has built a mutually beneficial relationship with the Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA) and other bar associations of color. A number of MAIBA members served on the MSBA Board of Governors. Most recently, the MSBA reorganized and a MAIBA representative participates in the governing structure with the other bar associations of color.

MAIBA continues to sponsor continuing legal education and other educational programs with an annual continuing legal education program. Numerous members of MAIBA lecture nationally and regional on Indian law topics, providing specific training for district court judges, federal magistrates and other lawyers.

The organization and its members were instrumental in establishing the Indian Child Welfare Law Center of Minneapolis, which provides legal services to children and families on issues relating to the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. In 1997, MAIBA began its annual golf tournament to fund a scholarship program for American Indian law students in the four Minnesota law schools. MAIBA awarded its first scholarship in December, 1998 and continues this tradition today.

MAIBA continues to strive to fulfill its mission.

Prepared by Lenor A. Scheffler, Best & Flanagan, LLP (MAIBA President, 1996-1998; 2003-2004).

Please note: that MAIBA itself does not take representation, nor is it a legal referal service. Please consult the legal resources links page.