Joanne Harmon Curry



PHONE: 303-926-5292


University of Wisconsin, J.D. (2001)

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ph.D. (1981)



U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin

Ho-Chunk Nation Court

Oneida Nation Court


Co-Author, Ute Indian Tribe-Chapter 3, Colorado River Basin Ten Tribes Partnership Tribal Water Study, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Dec. 2018)

Editor/author, Legal Comments, Wisconsin Association of School Boards, Wisconsin School Board Association (2001-2011)

Associate Editor, University of Wisconsin Law Review (2000-2001)


Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Tribes Water Rights Settlement, Montana Legislature State-Tribal Relations Committee (June 25, 2020)

Defending our Tribal Treaty Rights—Securing Our Water, Community Education, Aaniiih Nakoda College, Fort Belknap Indian Community, Fort Belknap Reservation (Jan. 23, 2020)

Ute Indian Tribe, Uintah & Ouray Reservation Utah—Indian Reserved Water Rights, Colorado River Water Users Association Annual Conference (Dec. 12, 2013)

Joanne Harmon Curry



PHONE: 303-926-5292

An enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, Joanne Harmon Curry’s ancestors walked the Trail of Tears from Tennessee to Indian Territory in the west. Her Cherokee grandfather farmed an allotment on a patch of land on the Cherokee reservation where her mother grew up.  Joanne grew up on a farm in South Dakota and watched her father go from unlined ditches to flood irrigation to pivot irrigation systems, acquiring an appreciation of the value of water and an agricultural economy.

Joanne is a partner at Patterson Earnhart Real Bird & Wilson LLP.  She has 20 years of legal experience and is in her tenth year with a particular focus on Indian reserved water rights, water resource development, and water compacts, including negotiations and settlement between tribal governments with state and federal governments and Congress, community education, and coordinating with tribal technical experts. She has extensive experience working closely with tribal governments to develop water policies, draft tribal water codes and water leasing agreements, address water theft and other misappropriation of water on reservations, enforce tribal jurisdictional issues related to water sources shared with state-based water users, and advocate for more favorable federal Indian water policies. She is co-counsel on two significant tribal water-related lawsuits seeking damages from the United States for its mismanagement of tribal reserved water rights and water-related resources, including Indian irrigation projects, and is involved in state general stream adjudications.

Joanne also has extensive experience as tribal general counsel and special counsel, including seventeen years as counsel for the school board of a tribally-controlled grant school. Her experience in education law at the federal, state, local, and tribal levels of governance, started as a special education teacher with a cooperative school program, teaching young children with disabilities that included working with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Head Start program. She has 20 years of legal experience working with school boards and administrators, developing board policies for employees and students, including the full scope of school governance areas, such as special education, contract negotiations, student expulsion hearings, student and employee disciplinary investigations, teacher certification issues, and developing tribal employee grievance hearing procedures and investigating sexual harassment complaints at a tribal college. Joanne has also served as a special education consultant to the Chicago Public Schools and the Chester-Upland, Pennsylvania, school district under the authority of a special master for the improvement of a school district found to discriminate against students with disabilities.