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December 6, 2022
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Governor meets leaders from every tribe to continue collaboration on shared priorities, makes historic appointment to second-highest court in Michigan

Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer attended the Tribal Summit in Sault Ste. Marie. She met with Tribal leaders to address shared priorities and continue an open dialogue between the state of Michigan and sovereign tribal governments. She also announced her appointment of Judge Allie Greenleaf Maldonado to the Michigan Court of Appeals. Judge Maldonado will be the first tribal citizen ever appointed to the Michigan Court of Appeals.

“It was an honor to attend the Tribal Summit in the Sault,” said Governor Whitmer. “The state of Michigan and sovereign tribal nations must continue working together on our shared priorities and maintain an open, productive dialogue to get things done on the kitchen-table issues. I am committed to working alongside tribal leaders to make a real difference in people’s lives and continue growing our economies. Our fortunes are linked, and we must collaborate to move our nations forward.”

“We are pleased to host today’s summit between the state’s tribal communities and Gov. Whitmer,” said Austin Lowes, vice chairman of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. “It is fitting we hold this meeting in Sault Ste. Marie, a major gathering place for tribes and their leaders for hundreds of years. Each tribe had an opportunity to discuss individual issues with the governor and her staff, and we expressed support for continued meeting, expanded consultation on key matters and a higher profile for tribal matters during our general session with the governor.”

In Governor Whitmer's first year in office, she signed Executive Directive 2019-17, which reaffirms and extends Michigan's commitment to recognize the sovereignty and right of self-governance of Michigan's federally-recognized tribes and orders each state department and agency to adhere to these principles. It’s also the first executive directive in Michigan history to require training on tribal-state relations for all state department employees who work on matters that have direct implications for tribes, and also required each department and agency to adopt and implement a tribal consultation policy.

Governor Whitmer has shown a deep commitment to ensuring members of Michigan’s federally recognized tribes have a seat at the table in state government. She has appointed 44 Native Americans to judgeships, councils, boards, and commissions. One of those appointees, Bryan Newland, was sworn in as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs last year, where he serves Native communities nationwide alongside Secretary Deb Haaland.

Judge Maldonado Appointment
Governor Whitmer announced her appointment of Judge Allie Greenleaf Maldonado to the Michigan Court of Appeals, District 4. Judge Maldonado currently serves as the Chief Judge of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians Trial Court. Judge Maldonado has also served as a pro tem judge for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Prior to her appointment as Chief Judge, she served as assistant general counsel for the LTBB tribe from 2002-2012. Following her graduation from law school, Judge Maldonado was selected as only the 15th tribal citizen to enter the prestigious honors program at the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). There she became a litigator in the Indian Resources Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division. She later worked as a staff attorney for Monteau & Peebles, LLP.

Maldonado earned her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Michigan Law School, and she holds a Bachelor of Science in Business from the City University of New York. Judge Maldonado is a nationally recognized expert on the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the Michigan Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFPA). She is active in the legal community outside the court room and is a member of the Black Women Lawyer’s Association of Michigan, Anishinaabek Caucus of Michigan, Women Lawyer’s Association of Michigan, Michigan Committee on Juvenile Justice, and Michigan Justice for All Commission, and the treasurer for the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. Allie lives in Petoskey with her husband, Jay. She is a citizen of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians and a member of the Turtle Clan.

"I am humbled and honored to be trusted by Governor Whitmer for this appointment to the Michigan Court of Appeals,” said Judge Maldonado. “I look forward to taking all of my professional experience and diligently applying it to the work ahead of me. This is a moment of importance not just for me, but for all of Indian Country as the Governor’s wisdom in this appointment sends a message about the critical importance of the work of tribal courts. I am grateful to the Governor and her team, and I look forward to giving all of Michigan my best."

Frank Ettawageshik, executive director of United Tribes of Michigan and a member of the Little Traverse Band’s appellate court, called the appointment of Maldonado “an important step for Judge Maldonado, the court and Native Americans.”

“Allie is eminently qualified for this important position. She has a deep understanding of the law, including the sometimes misunderstood but vitally important role of Native American tribes as sovereign nations under our system of justice,” said Ettawageshik. “This will give her an opportunity to expand her constituency from our tribal members to the entire state. She is a worthy addition to the Michigan Court of Appeals.”

This appointment was made to fill a partial term following the retirement of Judge Amy Ronayne Krause effective December 13, 2022. Judge Maldonado’s term will commence on January 9, 2023 and expire at twelve o’clock noon on January 1, 2025. If Judge Maldonado wishes to serve the remainder of Judge Krause’s term, expiring January 1, 2027, she would be required to run for reelection in November of 2024.

Judicial appointments are not subject to the advice and consent of the Senate.

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Photo by Ken Bosma / CC BY