UCLA has reached many philanthropic milestones over the past year. Now it marks another with a $15 million gift to UCLA School of Law from the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria in Northern California — the largest contribution from a tribe to a law school and among the biggest from a tribe to a university in history.
New Leaders in Native American Law
The tribe’s gift creates the Graton Scholars program at UCLA Law’s Native Nations Law and Policy Center. The program will provide full-tuition scholarships covering all three years of school, enabling Native students and others interested in the field to pursue careers as tribal advocates.
“Tribal law is a cornerstone of Native Americans’ quest for equality and inclusion within the U.S. justice system,” says Greg Sarris ’78, Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria Tribal Chairman, who also taught at UCLA for more than a decade. “UCLA’s commitment to educating and preparing the next generation of tribal legal advocates is personally known to me, as an alumnus and former UCLA professor. We hope this gift will begin the drive for equality for our people in our native land.”
A Tradition of Influence
The Graton Scholars program bolsters UCLA’s strengths as the nation’s premier school for Indian law. The first legal casebook in federal Indian law was written by UCLA Law faculty, and the school developed the first joint degree program in law and American Indian studies. UCLA Law also runs the Tribal Legal Development Clinic, which gives students hands-on experience and provides tribes with free legal services, including constitution drafting and revision; tribal code development; establishment and operation of tribal court systems; and negotiation of cooperative agreements with local cities, counties, and states to coordinate initiatives and services.
“For decades, Native American students and those seeking a way of serving Native Nations have come to UCLA to gain an unparalleled education in Indian law and American Indian studies, launching them into influential careers in the field,” says Carole Goldberg, Jonathan D. Varat Distinguished Professor of Law Emerita and founding director of the joint degree program. “This exceptionally generous gift will enable the most talented and committed students to join them as powerful tribal advocates.”
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Published October 2020