Winnebago Teachings, Passion for Justice Drive Graduate


In a screenshot of a video, Andrea Snowball delivers a virtual address for the Creighton University School of Law’s 2020 commencement ceremony. (Creighton Law)
By 
Molly Ashford
The Daily Record

Andrea “Andy” Snowball’s dreams of becoming an attorney began on the Winnebago reservation.

Snowball, whose Winnebago name is Good Thunder, is a native of the Twin Cities, and she spent much of her time traveling back and forth between the Winnebago reservation and her hometown.

It was in middle school that Snowball realized that she wanted to be a lawyer. However, for a variety of reasons, it felt impossible.

“I grew up in a tumultuous household, so I saw law as something that had structure and reliable rules, and that has always been attractive to me,” Snowball said. “I knew I wanted to be an attorney when I was young, but it always felt unattainable.”

With her plans to become an attorney on hold, Snowball continued on to other endeavors. She met her husband and settled on the reservation with him and their sons. While Snowball is a Winnebago tribal member by blood, she is enrolled in the Muscogee Nation in Oklahoma.

Snowball studied criminal justice and, after some time, went on to graduate with her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Briar Cliff University.

To support herself while completing her studies, Snowball took a job as a law clerk at a national firm focused on legal services for Indian populations. Big Fire Law and Policy Group LLP, a fully Native-owned and majority women-led firm with offices in Nebraska, Alaska and Washington, D.C., focuses its litigation work on the representation of tribal nations and organizations.

“Before I met my bosses, I didn’t know any Indian attorneys-- let alone Indian women attorneys,” Snowball said. “Seeing the work that they were doing was an incredible inspiration.”

After five years at the firm, Snowball was motivated by her passion for justice and encouraged by her family and bosses to take the leap and go to law school.

“I just thought, ‘I want to be a lawyer. I’m 36, and I’m not getting any younger,’” she said.

After some searching, Snowball decided upon the Creighton University School of Law. A non-traditional student in most senses, she made the 2-hour drive from Winnebago to Omaha and back for each and every class. She was chosen as the school’s 2020 commencement speaker.

“I started my first week of law school driving almost four hours round trip to attend classes,” Snowball said in her commencement address, which was delivered virtually. “Not only was the bridge on the fastest route closed for repair, but I had to drive through thunderstorms and torrential rain going to and from class every day. It made me think – maybe this is a sign that I made a mistake in going to law school.”

Despite the obstacles, Snowball knew that she wanted to go into law in order to meet the needs of her tribe.

She interned at the Native American Rights Fund and at Ho-Chunk’s in-house legal department in order to get more experience working with tribal law.

Through these experiences, she began to realize that there is a deficit in the availability of attorneys knowledgeable in tribal law or licensed to practice in tribal courts. She also noticed a lack of awareness within American Indian populations about legal processes.

“There seems to be a lack of knowledge or access to lawyers within the Indian community,” Snowball explained. “I want to be a point person for them.”

Despite Creighton’s location on land originally belonging to the Omaha tribe, the law school’s offerings on tribal law are far from extensive – the program consists of a single course offered every other year.

With the guidance of her bosses, Snowball was able to select courses to ensure that she was well-equipped to practice in Indian country and supplement her traditional education through experience.

“One of the greatest things about having such amazing women as bosses is that they really helped me all throughout law school,” Snowball said. “I would consult with them and ask for help with my classes to make sure I was covering what I needed to.”

Snowball also worked to change Creighton to make the university more attractive to potential Native American law students.

She worked alongside the Native American Law Students Association and Creighton Law’s recruiter to recommend ways that the school could be more welcoming to future students.

After graduation, Snowball studied for the bar exam, which she took this week, before returning to work at Big Fire.

The five years as a law clerk and her newly earned degree have prepared her for the career that she had always dreamed of.

“In the last few weeks of school, before classes went online, I would see dozens of eagles on my drive from Winnebago to Omaha,” Snowball said in her address. “In Winnebago teachings, eagles are good medicine – to see them is a blessing. Although we are all going through tough times right now, I see those eagles as a sign that we will all come out from this OK.”

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