Meet the Professors

Summer Indian Law

Adam Brewer
Professor of Public Administration
University of Montana

Professor Brewer currently teaches for the University of Montana’s Master of Public Administration Program. He teaches courses in Ethics, Methodology, Human Resource Management, and Legislation. His writing and research interests are centered on public policy with a focus on the role of narrative in shaping public opinion, the policy process, and policy outcomes. His most recent work analyzed the policy process at the state and local level by exploring the failure of a long-anticipated and massive bi-state public works project, the Columbia River Crossing project, to materialize amidst intense public pressure.

Professor Brewer grew up in Vancouver, Washington and graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho with an undergraduate degree (B.A.) in Political Science. After interning for Senator Patty Murray of Washington State, he continued his studies at Idaho State University receiving a Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) and later a Doctor of Arts (D.A.) degree in Political Science. Before coming to the University of Montana, he was a visiting assistant professor at Brigham Young University-Idaho teaching classes in American politics. 

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Kristen Carpenter
Professor of Law
University of Colorado Law School

Kristen Carpenter is the Council Tree Professor of Law at the University of Colorado Law School. Professor Carpenter also serves on the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as its member from North America. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School.

At Colorado Law, Professor Carpenter teaches and writes in the areas of Property, Cultural Property, American Indian Law, and Indigenous Peoples in International Law. She has published several books and legal treatises on these topics, and her articles appear in leading law reviews. Professor Carpenter has been awarded the Provost's Award for Faculty Achievement and the Outstanding New Faculty Award. She served as a director of the American Indian Law Program from 2012-2014, and as Associate Dean for Faculty Development from 2011-2013. In 2016 she was appointed as the Oneida Indian Nation Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

Before entering academia, Carpenter clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit and was an associate attorney at Hill & Barlow, P.C. in Boston. She gained experience in Indian law as a clerk for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and at the law firms of Fredericks, Pelcyger, Hester & White and Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Miller & Munson. Professor Carpenter is a member of the American Law Institute, and serves on the Board of the Federal Bar Association's Indian Law Section.

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Kathryn E. Fort
Director, Indian Law Clinic and Adjunct Professor
Michigan State University College of Law

Kathryn (Kate) E. Fort is the Staff Attorney for the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University College of Law. She joined the Center in 2005 as the Indigenous Law Fellow. In 2015, she started the Indian Child Welfare Act Appellate Project, which assists tribes in ICWA cases across the country. In her role with the Center she teaches the Indian Law Clinic class and traditional classes in federal Indian law, researches and writes on behalf of Center clients, and manages administrative aspects of the Center. Ms. Fort has written articles on laches and land claims, and has researched and written extensively on the Indian Child Welfare Act. She co-edited Facing the Future: The Indian Child Welfare Act at 30 with Wenona T. Singel and Matthew L.M. Fletcher (Michigan State University Press 2009). She is currently writing the casebook American Indian Children and the Law, and co-edits the popular and influential Indian law blog, TurtleTalk.

Ms. Fort graduated magna cum laude in from Michigan State University College of Law with the Certificate in Indigenous Law, and is licensed to practice law in Michigan. She received her B.A. in History with honors from Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia.

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Stacy Gordon Sterling
Professor of Law, Director of the Jameson Law Library
Alexander Blewett III School of Law, University of Montana

Professor Sterling is the Director of the Jameson Law Library. She teaches several courses: Legal Research, Advanced Legal Research, Environmental Law Research, Indian Law Research and Animal Law. Professor Gordon is a frequent CLE presenter on legal research and animal law topics. She writes in the area of animal law and is the advisor of the law school’s chapter of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund. She is also the Director of the First-Year Law Firm Program.

Professor Gordon is a graduate of Eastern Washington University, the University of Washington School of Library and Information Science, and The University of Montana School of Law, where she was a member of the Jessup International Moot Court team and served as business editor of the Public Lands and Resources Law Review. Before coming to the University of Montana, she was the Library Director at Salish Kootenai College.

In addition to her work in the law school, Professor Gordon serves as the Secretary of the Board of the Humane Society of Western Montana and Chair of the HSWM Legislative and Advocacy Committee. Her pro bono and volunteer work focuses on consulting on animal law issues. She is also a HOPE foster parent for the Humane Society of Western Montana and always has a house full of animals in need of permanent homes.

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Danna R. Jackson
Chief Legal Counsel
Montana Department of Natural Resource and Conservation

Danna R. Jackson is the Chief Legal Counsel for Montana's Department of Natural Resource and Conservation. Prior to that she was as an Assistant United States Attorney and Tribal Liaison for the District of Montana. As an AUSA, Jackson prosecuted violent crime in Indian Country and worked to build relationships with tribal governments and law enforcement partners. Before becoming an AUSA, Jackson worked in Washington DC for a decade. She spent over two years in the National Indian Gaming Commission's general counsel's office. Jackson had a tour on the Hill as Legislative Assistant to Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD). Jackson's boss was a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Appropriations, and Energy and Natural Resources committees. As such, Jackson had a front row seat to issues pertaining to water settlements, trust issues, rights of way, and energy development. Her last gig in Washington was representing tribal interests as advisor/attorney for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. At Akin, Jackson substantially worked on behalf of the Crow Tribe in negotiating the terms of the federal settlement and legislation. She also worked on behalf of the Osage Tribe in its massive tribal trust litigation matter.

Jackson has served as visiting faculty for the University of Montana's School of Law's Indian Summer Program. Jackson grew up on a cattle ranch near Hot Springs, Montana. She now resides in Helena with her husband and two kids. On weekends you can find Jackson trotting around the Mount Helena trail systems or exploring other parts of Montana's beautiful public spaces.

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Melody Kapilialoha MacKenzie
Professor of Law
University of Hawai'i at Manoa, William S. Richardson School of Law

After receiving her law degree, Professor MacKenzie served as a law clerk to Chief Justice William S. Richardson of the Hawai'i Supreme Court. In 1980, she joined the staff of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC), a public interest law firm protecting and advancing the rights of Native Hawaiians. She served as NHLC's Executive Director from 1982-1986 and as a senior staff attorney from 1986-1992. From 1992-1999, she was the Executive Director of the Hawaiian Claims Office, a state program established to review and make recommendations on claims by Hawaiian Home Lands beneficiaries.

Professor MacKenzie has worked on cases asserting Hawaiian traditional and customary rights, dealing with land issues, and defending the constitutionality of Hawaiian programs. She currently teaches Native Hawaiian Rights, Federal Indian Law, the Second Year Seminar legal writing course, and specific topics courses in Native Hawaiian law. Prof. MacKenzie is the immediate past president of the Native Hawaiian Bar Association, which she helped to establish in 1992. She also serves on the Board of Directors of Hika'alani, a Native Hawaiian cultural and educational organization. In Fall 2017, Prof. MacKenzie served as Acting Dean of the Law School.

Professor MacKenzie is Editor-in-Chief of Native Hawaiian Law: A Treatise (2015), the definitive resource for understanding critical legal issues affecting the Native Hawaiian community. She is also a contributing author to the latest edition of Felix S. Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law.

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Matthew N. Newman
Staff Attorney
Native American Rights Fund (NARF)

Since joining NARF’s Anchorage office in March 2013, Matt works in the areas of the Indian Child Welfare Act, tribal court jurisdiction, voting rights, as well as tribal natural resources and subsistence.

Matt grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska and graduated cum laude from the University of Alaska Fairbanks with a B.A. in Political Science. He received his J.D. from the University of Montana School of Law in 2012. During law school, Matt was an officer in the Native American Law Student Association (NALSA) branch and the Managing Editor for the Public Land and Resources Law Review. At graduation, he received the Eddie McClure Service Award from Indian Law Section of the Montana State Bar for his work as a student attorney for the Indian Law Clinic. Matt clerked for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Helena, Montana, where he worked on Major Crimes Act prosecutions pending before Montana federal District Courts and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

After law school, Matt served as a law clerk for Superior Court Judge Carl J.D. Bauman in Kenai, Alaska before joining NARF as a staff attorney.

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Kenneth Pitt
Chief Appellate Judge
Crow Tribal Court

In June 2018, Kenneth Pitt was confirmed as the Chief Appellate Judge for the Crow Tribal Court. He is an adjunct faculty member of the Natural Resources Department for Salish Kootenai College. He was formerly an attorney with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of the General Counsel in Golden, Colorado, specializing in environmental law, natural resources law, federal and state water law, and federal indian law. Kenneth co-authored "Fish and Wildlife on Federal Lands: Debunking State Supremacy" and currently serves as Chairman of the Board for the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes' Shoreline Protection Ordinance. He attended the University of Montana, getting his BS in Wildlife Biology and his JD from the School of Law.


Sara Rinfret
MPA Program Director, Public Administration Professor
University of Montana

Professor Rinfret teaches courses on regulatory policy, environmental policy, state and local government, public policy, public administration, and American politics. She is the Director for the Master of Public Administration Program and Co-Directs the Social Science Research Laboratory. Her main area of research is focused on environmental regulations. More specifically, she is interested in the interactions between agencies and interest groups during the stages of environmental rulemaking at the federal and state level. To date, her work has been published in Society and Natural Resources, Environmental Politics, Review of Policy Research, Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, PS: Political Science and Politics, Public Administration Quarterly, and the Oxford Handbook of U.S. Environmental Policy. She has co-authored four books: The Lilliputians of Environmental Regulation: The Perspective of State Regulators (Routledge); U.S. Environmental Policy: A Practical Approach to Understanding Implementation (Palgrave) (co-written with Michelle Pautz); Public Policy: A Concise Introduction (CQ Press, with Michelle Pautz and Denise Scheberle) and the Environmental Case (forthcoming with CQ Press, with Judith Layzer). She is a recipient of the Fulbright Specialist Program in public administration and studied with scholars at the University of Aarhus (Denmark) in 2016. Professor Rinfret is the 2018 recipient of UM's Most Inspirational Teacher of the Year Award, as voted on by students in recognition of a professor who has had an extraordinary impact on their lives. Her MPA is from Ohio State University's John Glenn School of Public Affairs and a Ph.D. in political science from Northern Arizona University. 

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Maylinn Smith
Adjunct Professor of Law and Co-Director, Margery Hunter Brown Indian Law Clinic
Alexander Blewett III School of Law, University of Montana

Professor Smith has been Clinical Supervisor and Director of the Margery Hunter Brown Indian Law Clinic for many years. She teaches Federal Courts and, during the summer session, Indian Child Welfare Act as part of the University’s Summer Indian Law Program. Working under her guidance, law student interns in the Indian Law Clinic assist tribal governments and organizations dealing with Indian law issues. Activities include: drafting model codes; working on civil rights cases; practicing in tribal court; mediations; training on Indian law issues; and natural resource issues as well.

Professor Smith's previous service as Chief Judge of the Southern Ute Indian Tribal Court, as Appellate Judge of the Southwest Intertribal Court of Appeals, as well as her experience as legal counsel for the Salish & Kootenai Tribal Court, benefit not only the tribes served by the Indian Law Clinic, but also the law students enrolled in the clinical program.

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