An Indian tribe from Northern California Wednesday announced a $15 million donation to the UCLA School of Law to advance the study and practice of Native American law, marking the largest contribution that a tribe has ever made to a law school.

“Tribal law is a cornerstone of Native Americans’ quest for equality and inclusion within the U.S. justice system,” said Greg Sarris, tribal chairman of Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, which is comprised of Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo Indians. “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.”

The Graton Scholars Endowment at UCLA School of Law’s Native Nations Law and Policy Center will support five full-tuition scholarships for each of the law school’s three classes — 15 scholarships altogether — for Native Americans and other students interested in pursuing careers as tribal legal advocates.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block called it one of the largest gifts to support scholarships in the university’s history.

“This gift allows us to recruit the very best candidates to pursue their legal education at UCLA and prepare for careers as impactful advocates for Native Nations,” Block said.

University officials noted that the first legal casebook in federal Indian law was written by UCLA Law faculty, and that the school developed the first joint degree program in law and American Indian studies.

“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,” said Carole Goldberg, the Jonathan D. Varat Distinguished Professor of Law Emerita and founding director of the joint degree program in law and American Indian studies. “This exceptionally generous gift will enable the most talented and committed students to join them as powerful tribal advocates.”

UCLA Law’s Tribal Legal Development Clinic provides free legal services to tribes in the areas of 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.

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