Public Service: Partner Thomasina Real Bird & the National Native American Bar Association

Dec 18, 2020 | News

This past April, Native Law Group partner Thomasina Real Bird began her term as president of the National Native American Bar Association and Foundation. Real Bird previously served as NNABA treasurer and NNABA Foundation treasurer, both volunteer roles, for three years. She said her colleagues encouraged her to run for president.

“With their support, I decided to run for the position as a way to continue to lend my skills and talents to the Native American legal community,” she said. “My vision is to continue to build upon the good work of my predecessors.”

In the above photo: Partner Thomasina Real Bird (Ihanktonwan) enjoyed a November meeting with the National Native American Law Students Association in her capacity as the NNABA president. Encouraging the next generation of Native lawyers is of paramount concern for all of us at Native Law Group. Real Bird is pictured at far right, second row from top.  

Real Bird noted that NNABA is working on priorities that include increasing the number of Native Americans in the federal judiciary and confronting the invisibility problem that Native Americans in the legal profession often experience. She also plans to roll out a poster project that will be geared towards Native Americans as young as elementary school, encouraging them to consider a career in the profession.  

“It is important to me that our next generations see Native American lawyers and normalize the fact that there are Native American lawyers in all aspects of the legal profession, including in the federal judiciary,” Real Bird explained.  “NNABA is in contact with President-elect Biden’s transition team and incoming White House Counsel to actively advocate for the consideration of Native Americans in the federal judiciary. We are determined to move the needle on this issue during the next four years. It is important, and it is time that we have Native Americans in federal district courts, courts of appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.”  

Real Bird also works with the American Bar Association’s Commission on Youth at Risk, part of the ABA Center on Children and the Law. The commission’s mission is to address the legal needs of children and young adults who are disadvantaged or marginalized due to legal system involvement, poverty, race, national origin or ethnicity, gender or gender indemnification, disability, or religion.

“I am in my second-year term through appointments to the commission by past ABA President Judy Perry Martinez and current ABA President Trish Refo,” Real Bird said. “We help set the ABA’s national policy agenda on child and youth law topics; ensure the ABA speaks with a unified and coordinated voice on child law topics; and develop programs for ABA events that will share information about child and youth legal needs. I work to ensure the ABA participates in the defense of the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act, and that the commission’s work reaches Native American youth.”

Real Bird has previously served on the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession, and on the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility’s Diversity Committee. She observed that the legal profession is one of the least diverse.

“We want to facilitate the entry, participation and retention of Native American lawyers,” she said. “It is very important to ensure that native people are included in a meaningful way, and are contributing to the legal profession in this country. And here at Native Law Group, a majority Native-owned law firm, encouraging the next generation of Native lawyers is of paramount concern for all of us.”

An enrolled member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, Real Bird is Ihanktonwan Nakota and Sicangu Lakota. She was born in Martin, South Dakota, near the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, and raised in the Choteau Creek community on South Dakota’s Yankton Sioux Reservation. On her family’s allotted land, they raised horses, including a beautiful appaloosa they called Sena’s Joker. She continues to pursue her passion for animals, raising quarter horses with her husband at their Colorado home.

A majority Native American-owned law firm, Patterson Earnhart Real Bird & Wilson LLP has offices in Louisville, Colorado, and Washington, DC. To learn more, visit 

Patterson Earnhart Real Bird & Wilson LLP is dedicated to the representation of American Indian tribes, tribal entities, and individual Indians across the United States. Our mission is to support and advance the sovereignty, self-sufficiency, and self-governance of our tribal clients. We take time to listen to, and fully understand, our clients’ concerns so we can develop responsive and appropriate solutions.