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Learning Tribal Politics and Policy

Summer internship deepens Isabella Twocrow’s passion for Indigenous issues.

Isabella and Deb orig
Isabella Twocrow, right, with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.Image: William Wilkinson

By Clare Milliken
Winter 2023

Last summer, Isabella Twocrow worked in Washington, D.C., alongside some of the most important decision-makers when it comes to Native American life, including Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. Twocrow interned for 10 weeks with the Bureau of Indian Affairs within the U.S. Department of the Interior.  

“They’re the top of Indian country,” says Twocrow, who is Oglala Lakota and a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation and co-chair of Northwestern’s Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance. “They’re the people protecting tribal sovereignty through policymaking in D.C.” 

The senior was Northwestern’s first-ever recipient of the Native American Congressional Internship from the Morris K. and Stewart L. Udall Foundation, a federal agency that supports work in fields related to tribal policy, the environment and Native American health care.   

Twocrow sat in on tribal consultations and other meetings and learned from political appointees specializing in topics such as gaming, child welfare and even the protection of wolves. She interviewed Wizipan Garriott, principal deputy assistant secretary for Indian affairs, and presented on the Supreme Court case Haaland v. Brackeen. The case challenges the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act, which gives tribal governments jurisdiction over Native American child welfare decisions.  

At Northwestern, Twocrow has worked as a student outreach coordinator for Native American and Indigenous students within the undergraduate admissions office. She is also a co-designer of a campus community workshop on Native issues.  

After graduation, Twocrow, who is majoring in learning and organizational change with a minor in Native American and Indigenous studies, plans to travel to Wisconsin to be closer to her tribal homelands. Then, she hopes to attend law school in 2024. “Going to this internship completely set my mind on law school, and I want to go to a school that specializes in federal Indian law and policy,” Twocrow says.   

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