fbpx
 

The United States Senate on Wednesday confirmed Judge Sunshine Sykes to serve as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. She is a citizen of the Navajo Nation. 

When sworn-in, she will become the first Native American Article III federal judge in California, the fourth active Native American federal judge in the nation, and just the seventh Native federal judge ever appointed.

Judge Sykes has served as a California Superior Court Judge on the Superior Court of Riverside County since 2013. She currently presides over a civil litigation department and is the presiding judge of the appellate division. 

Judge Sykes received her J.D. from Stanford Law School in 2001 and her B.A from Stanford University in 1997. From 2001 to 2003, she was a staff attorney for California Indian Legal Services. From 2003 to 2005, Judge Sykes worked as a contract attorney for the Juvenile Defense Panel at the Southwest Justice Center. From 2005 to 2013, she served as a Deputy County Counsel in the Office of County Counsel for Riverside County, handling litigation on behalf of government entities and serving as a juvenile dependency trial attorney representing the California Department of Public Social Services on matters concerning abused and neglected children. 

Never miss Indian Country’s biggest stories and breaking news. Sign up to get our reporting sent straight to your inbox every weekday morning. 

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez praised Judge Sykes' confirmation.

“On behalf of the Navajo Nation, we congratulate Judge Sykes on her historic nomination and becoming the first Diné person to serve as a U.S. District Court Judge. Her upbringing, exceptional experience, and commitment to serving the public and the justice system will bring new and unique perspectives to the justice system. We will continue to pray for her continued success as she serves in the U.S. District Court and we thank her for being an inspiration to our young Navajo people. We also thank the Biden-Harris Administration and the Senate. We look forward to having more appointments that reflect the diversity of this country,” President Nez said.

Two national leading Native American organizations, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) praised Judge Sykes’ Senate confirmation on Wednesday evening. 

“NCAI congratulates Judge Sykes on her historic confirmation and furthering the representation of Natives in the federal judiciary. It is critical, now more than ever, that more qualified American Indians and Alaska Natives be appointed to the federal courts, especially given how much of tribal life is controlled by federal law and the courts’ interpretations of those laws,” NCAI First Vice President Mark Macarro said in a statement. 

“Judge Sykes’ extensive knowledge and experience are vitally important for the federal judiciary, particularly in California where countless federal Indian law issues arise among the more than 100 tribal nations within the state,” Macarro added. “NCAI and the Native American Rights Fund have long advocated for increased Native representation in the federal judiciary,” said NARF Executive Director John Echohawk. “It benefits everyone when federal judges understand the unique relationship between the United States and Tribal Nations and reflect a more diverse swath of the districts that they serve.”

More Stories Like This

San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Surprises Native Nonprofits with $1M in Donations on #GivingTuesday
Biden Affirms Commitment to Tribal Nations, Announces New Initiatives at White House Tribal Nations Summit
PHOTOS: The White House Tribal Nations Summit
WATCH: The White House Tribal Nations Summit 
Tribal Leaders to Attend First In-person White House Tribal Nations Summit in Six Years

You’re reading the first draft of history. 

November is  Native American Heritage Month in the United States. We feel like every month — and every day — is a reason for celebrating Native Americans and our heritage. That’s what we try to do here at Native News Online, with stories each day that celebrate, inform and uplift American Indian and Alaska Native people. Over the past year or so, we have been especially busy with three important reporting projects that are having an impact across Indian Country:

  • Indian Boarding Schools. We’ve reported and published more than 150 stories and special live stream video events to help shine a light on the dark era of boarding schools — and help create momentum for change.
  • Native Health Desk. Launched in January, this reporting initiative was created to heighten awareness of Native American health inequities and spotlight pockets of progress in Indian Country. So far we’ve reported and published nearly 120 stories and launched a monthly health newsletter that reaches more than 23,000 readers.  
  • Native Bidaske. In March, we launched this live stream interview program to highlight the work of Native Americans who are making news and leading change in Indian Country.  We have hosted guests from the federal government and Native rights advocates as well as Indigenous actors, comedians, journalists and models.   

We hope you will join us in celebrating Native American heritage and history this November and invite you to consider the old adage that “Journalism is the first draft of history.” If you appreciate the voice Native News Online gives to Native American people, we hope you will support our work with a donation so we can build our newsroom and continue to amplify Native voices and Native perspectives.

Any contribution — big or small — helps us remain a force for change in Indian Country and continue telling the stories that are so often ignored, erased or overlooked.  Most often, our donors make a one-time gift of $20 or more, while many choose to make a recurring monthly donation of $5 or $10.  Whatever you can do, it helps fund our Indigenous-led newsroom and our ability to cover Native news. 

Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you. 

About The Author
Native News Online Staff
Author: Native News Online StaffEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Native News Online is one of the most-read publications covering Indian Country and the news that matters to American Indians, Alaska Natives and other Indigenous people. Reach out to us at [email protected]