Law professor to receive ‘Member of the Year’ award

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Friday, September 11, 2009
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An ASU law professor and director of the Indian Legal Clinic has been chosen to receive the Native American Bar Association of Arizona’s first Member of the Year Award.

Patty Ferguson-Bohnee will be recognized on Sept. 26 at the inaugural Seven Generations Awards Dinner.

NABA is a national association of Native Americans who work in various law-related professions and are focused on legal issues affecting American Indians as well as natives of Alaska and Hawaii.

The Arizona chapter was founded in 2007 by several local Native American attorneys, including Ferguson-Bohnee.

Her efforts in launching the Arizona chapter were only a small portion of the work that led to her receiving the Member of the Year Award.

“As one of the founding members of NABA-AZ and the organizer of the Arizona Native Vote-Election Protection Project, [Ferguson-Bohnee] is most worthy of the first annual NABA-AZ Member of the Year Award,” NABA-AZ President Kerry Patterson said. “We thought it was fitting to recognize her for helping get [the Arizona chapter] off the ground, as well as for her work in the interim.”

Among the criteria developed for award recipients is having a long history of service to NABA, having created change or impact at the local, state or national level, and positive outcomes of projects.

Patterson said Ferguson-Bohnee exemplifies many of these criteria.

“We want to recognize her for her service,” she said. “She has done a lot of good work relating to Indian Law.”

Ferguson-Bohnee said she’s glad to be recognized for her work, but it will in no way deter her from continuing to work to help her fellow Native Americans.

“I was very honored and humbled by the recognition,” she said. “Most of what I do involves a lot of teamwork, so I imagine they could have chosen a number of other people.”

One of Ferguson’s largest and most recent projects is the Arizona Native Vote-Election Protection Project. The project is a combination of work done by ASU’s Indian Legal Clinic, NABA-AZ and several other Native American-centered organizations.

“It’s a really great project we’ve worked on to find the needs of the local tribes and find a way to provide for them,” Ferguson said.

The project, which was designed to ensure access to the polls and to prevent voter disenfranchisement, is ongoing.

Currently, Ferguson is assisting fellow volunteers in compiling reports on how to improve the project after issues encountered in the 2008 election.

Legal aide and project volunteer Derrick Beetso, a graduate student in the law school, said Ferguson-Bohnee played an integral role in the success of the project.

“[Ferguson-Bohnee] is very deserving of the award and I’m proud to have helped her with the project,” he said. “I would volunteer my services to similar projects she may be a part of in the future.”

In April, she and other community members who worked on the project were recognized by ASU President Michael Crow and received the President’s Medal for Social Embeddedness.

Patterson said this award contributed to Ferguson-Bohnee being chosen for the Member of the Year Award.

Other projects Ferguson is currently working on include trying to get Indian law placed on the Arizona Bar Exam, multiple amicus briefs and cultural, property and federal recognition-related issues.

Several other prestigious NABA awards will be presented at the event and Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Ariz., will speak.

“It’s a huge honor to be selected,” Ferguson-Bohnee said. “Hopefully [the creation of] the award will encourage others to get involved in community service and community issues related to [Native Americans].”

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