2009 Forward under 40 Award Honoree
UW Major: Federal Indian and Tribal Law
Age: 34 | Spooner, WI
General Counsel, St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin
Andrew Adams III began law school in 2003 with a clear vision to use his education to affect the lives of Indian people and tribes.
Five years later, Andrew is realizing that vision as general counsel of the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin, serving as one of the youngest head attorneys of a Wisconsin tribe.
"I get the opportunity to pursue a career that allows me to help people with unique challenges."
A citizen of the Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma, Andrew was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, and received his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Michigan.
"I was very active in the Indian community in Michigan," he says, "serving as co-chair to UM's Native American Student Association, numerous years on the powwow committee, chairman of the board for American Indian Health and Family Services of Southeastern Michigan, and drum keeper for the TreeTown Singers."
After studying history and English and doing graduate work in American culture, Andrew spent his first year of law school at the University of Tulsa. Drawn by the UW's specialized Indian law program as well its commitment to community, Andrew transferred to the University of Wisconsin to complete his degree.
"The major thing that separates Wisconsin from Michigan or Tulsa," he notes, "is Wisconsin's commitment to the state community. Wisconsin has a large network of Extension offices across the state."
Andrew's leadership and involvement in the Indian community continued at the UW, where he served as treasurer of the National Native American Law Students Association (NNALSA). Shortly after graduating, he accepted a position with the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin as tribal attorney in May 2006, and was elevated to the role of general counsel only a year later. Since then, he's been directly involved in legal issues affecting the tribe, including tribal sovereignty, children, elders, cultural integrity, land base, economic development, natural resources and others.
"I take my responsibility as an advocate for the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin very seriously," he says, "because with this position comes the monumental task of identifying and assessing all of the legal challenges that face the St. Croix."
In addition to his work with the tribe, Andrew remains committed and active in serving the Indian community, and was recently named to the Wisconsin Legislature's Special Committee on State-Tribal Relations, studying issues relating to American Indians in Wisconsin.