STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Julie Combs
TULSA – This summer, Cherokee Nation citizen Julie Combs will journey to Washington, D.C., as a Udall Foundation Native American Congressional intern at the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of the Assistant Secretary at Indian Affairs.
Combs, a first year law student at the University of Tulsa College of Law, will learn firsthand how the government works with tribal nations. She is pursuing a certificate in Native American law.
“There are not doctors or lawyers or anything like that in my family, and so growing up I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do but knew that I wanted to work specifically with tribal nations and perhaps even for the Cherokee Nation one day,” she said.
She said she realized as a TU undergraduate she had the skills necessary to pursue law. After gaining experience as a law student, Combs said she decided to apply for the Udall internship.
“After my first semester and doing pretty well in all my classes, I kind of felt like I would be a good candidate to be able to apply for it,” she said.
Though a first-year law student, Combs said she has an idea of the type of work she would like to do as a lawyer.
“Ideally, I would like to work somewhere where I could practice in federal Indian law, specifically in advocacy on behalf of women. That’s a huge thing I care very deeply about. I would hope that any sort of career I have whether it’s in government or with a law firm would enable me to do that,” she said.
Combs credits Tribal Councilor and her cousin, Mary Baker Shaw, and her uncle, Amon Baker, who both serve the tribe, as her inspiration.
She also volunteers her time at the Cherokee Heritage Center by working with the development manager to co-author and secure grants for capacity needs for the Cherokee National Historical Society and other tribal projects.
“There’s really not a better time than right now to be a young Cherokee citizen. The tribe is doing so much particularly on the health care front. They’re building a new hospital in Tahlequah, and they’re becoming increasingly more autonomous as time goes on, and so there’s really not a better time to be able to give back to the tribe and to serve the tribe,” she said.
Combs serves as the executive director on TU’s Public Interest Board, and in the fall will serve as president of the Native American Law Student Association.