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Seattle University alum is the first Native voice at Seattle City Hall

November 01, 2016

When Seattle voters in 2013 approved city district elections, the assumption was they wanted more of their neighbors to step up and run for office. In Seattle's District 5, seven people answered the call, making it the most competitive race in Seattle during the first district election in 2015. Debora Juarez '87, a North Seattle resident for the past 25 years, came out on top. As a result, the Seattle University School of Law alum became the first Native American woman on a major city council in the country.

"Native peoples have faced underrepresentation ever since the founding of the United States," says Councilmember Juarez. "My city council district in North Seattle has been left out of many important discussions regarding our city's future; my goal is to reverse that trend. I am tremendously excited to foster deeper government to government relations with the sovereign nations which collectively make up Indian Country."

Juarez's background shows her tenacity to challenge the status quo for the betterment of her people. Growing up on the Puyallup Reservation, Juarez participated alongside Billy Frank Jr. during the Fish Wars, a time when Washington tribes fought against state officials to enforce treaty fishing rights. Her participation in this struggle led to a life-changing moment.

"It was in this politically charged atmosphere I first met a Native American lawyer, at the young age of 13. From that first meeting, I knew I wanted to represent the rights of my people in the court of law."

After law school, Juarez spent 25 years serving her people, first as a public defender, then as a judge, and then as an advisor to two sitting governors. Before she ran for the city council, Juarez led William Kastner's tribal law practice.

How does her education at Seattle University School of Law impact her now?

"Seattle U Law exemplifies the University's strong tradition of service. My choice to honor this tradition through my work as a King County Superior Court judge, public defender, and in non-profit legal services has given me many of the skills I use every day as a councilmember."