2011 AmeriCorps Legal Fellow, Jaimie Lynn Park

Jaimie Lynn Park

Name of Host Organization: Montana Legal Services Association
City, State: Billings, Montana
Issue area: Native American Rights, Environmental Justice Civil Rights/Civil Liberties

The Project

I am an AmeriCorps Legal Fellow specializing in Indian Law with Montana Legal Services Association. The primary focus of my fellowship is direct services to the great Indigenous Nations of Montana in the area of wills and estates planning, as well as probate. I will also teach CLE's and recruit pro bono attorneys to help draft Wills. Finally, I will be involved in developing a Tribal Law Lay Advocacy Curriculum at the Dull Knife Tribal College of the Northern Cheyenne.

The Inspiration

The American Indian Probate Reform Act (AIPRA) was passed in 2004 and came into effect in 2006, creating a uniform probate code for federally recognized Tribes. While it is laudable that AIPRA tries to attack the problem of fractionation, what motivated me to do Indian Wills and Estate Planning is that AIPRA also fails to recognize and honor traditional familial relationships of federally recognized Tribes, in particular, in intestacy probate. For example, an aunt may be raising her niece, and in her Tribe that is a traditional parent-child relationship. Yet if that aunt passes away without a will, her traditional child, or niece in the eyes of federal law, does not have standing to inherit her traditional mother's land. Under AIPRA that child is an "ineligible heir." Many Native Americans are unaware that such traditional familial relationships are not honored during intestacy probate of trust interests, never realizing the need to get a will drafted to protect that relationship. Most Native Americans also don't realize that even if they do have a will drafted before walking on, AIPRA dictates to whom they can leave what interest to and how. It is my goal to empower as many Tribal Citizens with the knowledge of how AIPRA affects them and their loved ones and by providing them with the means to protect their traditional familial relationships.



Waynesville, North Carolina

Law school:

Making the connection:

I was 15 years old when I told my A.P. History teacher I wanted to practice Indigenous Law and advocate for the great Indigenous Nations of this country. I went to law school specifically for Indigenous Law to achieve social justice for individual Tribal members and for Tribes as a whole. It was very important to me to serve in Indian Country before I went to law school.

Surviving law school:

I never had a problem maintaining my public service focus. Years of serving in Indian Country as an AmeriCorps VISTA member had made that focus unwavering. I'm really thankful for my summer clerkships with Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and the Canadian Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. Those clerkships helped me go back to law school, where I felt extremely out of place. I went to a law school where public interest law was not promoted the way it should have been. The majority of my peers were interested in money, and money alone. I survived law school by collaborating with other students who were committed to public interest law, but more importantly, by engaging with different community members involved in public interest and social justice outside of law school.

Recommended books:


Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

Collapse by Jared Diamond

Favorite website(s):

Turtle Talk: The MSU Law Indigenous Law & Policy Center Blog: http://turtletalk.wordpress.com/

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