August 2012 Bar Bulletin
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Profile / Gabe Galanda

Native Son

By Justice Steven Gonzalez


When I met Gabe Galanda in the fall of 1998, I knew he was destined for a meaningful career in the law. I would like to say I predicted Gabe's great success then, when I offered him an unpaid internship with the U.S. Attorney's Office. But in his first 12 years of practice, he has surpassed what now in retrospect were my modest expectations of him.

That fall Gabe ended up landing a job with Williams Kastner through the Northwest Minority Job Fair. Since I serve on the steering committee for the job fair, our paths later crossed each year at the job fair, where he interviewed other promising law students for summer associate jobs. I watched him grow. The man who started his career in 2000 as a products liability and commercial defense litigator grew quickly into an expert in Indian law and tribal economic development.

Gabe's professional success epitomizes the mission of the Northwest Minority Job Fair. Drawing from his heritage as an enrolled citizen of the Round Valley Indian Tribes of California, Gabe has approached his career with single-minded intensity. He became a key leader in the Northwest Indian Bar Association and the WSBA Indian Law Section, eventually chairing each.

In a few short years, he and our dear mutual friend, Blackfeet lawyer Debora Juarez, built a formidable Tribal Practice Group at Williams Kastner. Although originally faced with skepticism from senior attorneys who may not have anticipated the expanding legal needs of Northwest tribal governments - which up until the late 1990s were still largely represented by legal aid groups - Gabe prevailed in creating one of the first stand-alone tribal practice groups at a large downtown Seattle firm.

In 2002, Gabe undertook the first of the causes for which he has become known. That year he began working tirelessly to ensure the Washington State Bar Association included Indian law on our state's bar examination. In 2004, I was honored to be the first judge to sign on to be a part of Gabe's and others' efforts to change the bar exam. Many helped, but it was primarily Gabe who caused Indian law to be included.

In that process, Gabe received formal endorsement of the cause from the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and the National Congress of American Indians. Recognizing the matter as one of tribal-state policy nationally, and thus deferring to elected tribal leadership, he traveled to Connecticut to obtain a supporting resolution from the Indian Congress. Now, generations of Washington attorneys - and future judges - will learn this vitally important area of the law as they enter the profession; we are a better bar as a result.

By 2005, Gabe had transitioned his practice exclusively to Indian law. As of today, Gabe has published more than 100 articles on tribal legal issues, in publications ranging from The Seattle Times to the National Law Journal. Indeed, as tribal economic development has flourished, Gabe has approached his advocacy for tribal clients with great respect, curiosity, novelty and zeal.

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