When Amanda WhiteEagle ’01, JD’05 was 11, her father planted a seed.
“Long before I knew what went into going to law school, I told him that I wanted to be an attorney,” she says. “He told me that the Ho-Chunk Nation could always use good lawyers, and to me that seemed like a pretty good fit.”
Today, WhiteEagle is attorney general of the Ho-Chunk Nation, leading a Department of Justice committed to defending the tribe’s sovereignty, interpreting its constitution, and protecting the tribe’s legal interests.
WhiteEagle earned bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and French and a certificate in American Indian Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Then, she headed for UW Law School, armed with a tribal scholarship that provided her with a post-graduation job.
At UW Law School, she took a deep dive into tribal law. When she graduated from UW–Madison in 2005, she went to work as a law clerk for the tribe. When she was just a year out of law school, a vacancy for a tribal judgeship came open, and she applied and was appointed.
The Wisconsin Idea was instilled in me as an undergraduate and in law school.
At age 27, WhiteEagle became one of the youngest judges in the United States.
“When I was confirmed, my fellow judges took me to lunch at the casino, and I got carded,” says WhiteEagle, who served on the bench from 2006 to 2015 before being appointed the tribe’s top legal officer.
She credits her UW-Madison education for helping build her career, which also included working as a Jackson County court commissioner.
“The Wisconsin Idea was instilled in me as an undergraduate and in law school. The fabric of the state is woven into the education and was ensuring that I was giving back to my community,” WhiteEagle says.
It also meshes with Ho-Chunk tribal ethics and values.
“Being a tribal member allows me to provide for my community, and what’s expected from the community is that we give back,” she adds.