At the Supreme Court
Arlinda Locklear, Class of 1973
by Stephanie Hunt
photography by John Harrington
ARLINDA LOCKLEAR ’73 is a dedicated attorney who has sought justice for many issues facing Native Americans. She may live in Washington, D.C., but “home” will always be Robeson, N.C., where her Lumbee ancestors and extended family have lived for centuries (both her parents are Lumbee). She spent her school years in Charleston, where her father was stationed with the U.S. Navy.
Locklear graduated from the College of Charleston, attended Duke School of Law, and began her career with the Native American Rights Fund, the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit law firm dedicated to assisting and defending the rights of Indian tribes, organizations and individuals.
In 1983, she became the first Native American woman to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court, and has twice served as lead counsel for cases in which the Supreme Court found in favor of tribal parties. In Oneida Indian Nation vs. County of Oneida, she formulated and argued the theory adopted by the Supreme Court, holding that tribes have a federal common law right to sue for possession of tribal land taken in violation of federal law. Oneida is the landmark case on which all other land- claim litigation has since been based.
“I believe that each of us has a responsibility to give back to our communities, to our place in the world,” Locklear says. “I consider it a blessing to be an Indian – it’s a gift God gave me. I know there’s a place I can go and be taken care of and loved by an extended family and community, and that’s a rare and precious thing in this world.”