Mel has focused her career on natural resources and environmental issues in Indian country. Before attending law school, she developed a comprehensive guide to federal land transfers for tribal land offices. She also served as a Living Green Outreach Specialist for the Upper Sioux Community, where she worked with tribal members to develop environmental initiatives centered around Dakota language and values, and has volunteered with a variety of environmental justice organizations.
During law school, Mel devoted much of her time to an Indian Law Impact Litigation Clinic, where she participated in various stages of treaty rights litigation. She also clerked for the National Resources Defense Council and Judge John Jacobson at the Tribal Court of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. After obtaining her J.D., Mel clerked for Justices Wilhelmina M. Wright and Margaret H. Chutich at the Minnesota Supreme Court.
In her free time, Mel enjoys hiking, camping, and having dance parties with her young nieces.
Mel’s Indian law experience includes:
- Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians v. Wisconsin, 769 F.3d 543 (7th Cir. 2014), cert denied 135 S.Ct. 1842 (2015). Assisted in reopening a 1991 judgment to recognize that the State of Wisconsin does not have authority to restrict the treaty-protected right of the Ojibwe to hunt white-tailed deer at night in the ceded territory of Wisconsin.
- United States v. Washington,827 F.3d 836 (9th Cir. 2016). Assisted in writing an amicus curiae brief on the implied treaty right to habitat protection. As a result of this litigation, the Ninth Circuit issued a landmark decision requiring the State of Washington to replace barrier culverts that impeded the migration of salmon and broadly stating that tribes retain implied affirmative rights to the protection of their treaty resources.
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- J.D. William Mitchell College of Law, 2015 summa cum laude
- B.S. Minnesota State University, Mankato, 2009
- U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan
- Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians
Selected Publications and Honors:
- “Engineering Exceptions to Historic Preservation Law: Why the Army Corps of Engineers’ Section 106 Regulations Are Invalid,” 40 William Mitchell Law Review 1580 (2014).
- Executive Editor, William Mitchell Law Review Volume 41, Issue 2 (“Environmental Justice and Tribal Environmental Regulation”).
- National Native American Law Student Association Moot Court Competition, advanced to final rounds (2014).
- CALI Excellence for the Future Awards in Federal Indian Law (2013), Evidence (2014), and Introduction to Tribal Law (2015).
- Indian Land Tenure Foundation, Federal Land Transfer Wiki (2010) (accessible to members of the Indian Land Forum).
- “The Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant: Nuclear Racism or Business as Usual?” Presented at Minnesota State University, Mankato, Undergraduate Research Conference (2009).