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WASHINGTON — Danna Jackson, a Kootenai descandant who grew up in Montana on the Flathead Reservation, was nominated by President Joe Biden on Wednesday to become a federal judge for the United States District Court for the District of Montana. Jackson is the fifth Native American President Biden has nominated to the federal bench.

Jackson, who has spent much of her legal career focused on Indian law and natural resources, must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

If confirmed, Jackson would be the fifth active Native American federal district court judge in the country and the first Native American federal judge in Montana.

Jackson currently serves as the tribal attorney for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in Pablo, Montana, a position she has held since 2023. She previously served at the U.S. Department of the Interior as senior counselor to the director of the Bureau of Land Management. She later served as senior counselor to the assistant secretary for Water and Science from 2021 to 2023. 

Prior to that, Jackson served as chief legal counsel at the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation in Helena from 2016 to 2021, and as an assistant U.S. Attorney and tribal liaison in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana from 2010 to 2016.  As an assistant U.S. attorney, she prosecuted violent crime in Indian Country,

Jackson also worked as an attorney at the Washington, D.C.-based law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP from 2005 to 2010, after serving as a legislative assistant in the United States Senate from 2002 to 2005 and a staff attorney at the National Indian Gaming Commission from 2000 to 2002.

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She received her J.D. and her B.A. from the University of Montana in 1996 and 1993, respectively. She has also served as faculty for the University of Montana’s Indian Summer Law Program.

"I have known Danna and her family for a long time. We are so proud of all she has done and this nomiation," Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Chairman Michael Dolson said to Native News Online. "She is so deserving and well-qualified to serve as a federal judge."

Three national Native American organizations, the National Congress of Americans Indians (NCAI). the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), and National Native American Bar Association (NNABA), commended President Biden on Jackson's nomiation.

"NCAI is proud to support President Biden’s nomination of Danna Jackson to be the first-ever Native American to sit on the federal bench in the State of Montana," National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Executive Director Larry Wright, Jr. said. "Ms. Jackson will bring deep Indian law and policy expertise to the federal bench. NCAI urges her swift confirmation in the U.S. Senate."

"Danna Jackson has a long track record of public service, extensive federal legal experience, and is well qualified to be a federal judge," said Native American Rights Fund (NARF) Executive Director John Echohawk. "We commend the Biden Administration’s selection of this historic nominee and exhort her confirmation. She will be a strong addition to the federal judiciary in Montana."

"Inclusion of Native Americans in the courts that preside over matters in Montana is critically important to advancing trust in the judicial system and the rule of law. Danna Jackson’s deep experience in Montana in criminal and civil matters and her connections to the communities she has served her whole career will be a great asset to the court," said Matthew Archer-Beck, President of the National Native American Bar Association (NNABA).

If confirmed by the Senate, Jackson will become the 11th Native American Article III federal judge to ever serve in the judiciary in the history of the United States. 

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About The Author
Levi Rickert
Author: Levi RickertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Levi "Calm Before the Storm" Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected].