Kevin Washburn’s contributions to Indian Law have not only positively impacted the Chickasaw Nation, but Indigenous peoples across the country.
Mr. Washburn was born Aug. 9, 1967, to Chickasaw Shirley Stark. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics at the University of Oklahoma in 1989. He then attended the Washington University Law School in St. Louis, before transferring to Yale Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the Yale Journal on Regulation and earned his juris doctorate in 1993.
After graduating law school, Mr. Washburn served as a judicial law clerk for Judge William C. Canby Jr., an expert in American Indian law, from August 1993 to July 1994. Judge Canby served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Phoenix, Arizona. He then relocated to Washington, D.C., to serve as a trial attorney at the Department of Justice (DOJ) Environment and Natural Resources Division from 1994 to 1997.
Changing jobs at the DOJ, Mr. Washburn served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the Violent Crimes Section from 1997 to 2000. During this time, he also taught at the University of New Mexico as an adjunct professor. His first official foray into practicing American Indian law came when he returned to Washington to serve as general counsel at the National Indian Gaming Commission from January 2000 to July 2002.
Mr. Washburn began his academic career as an associate professor of law at the University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis, where he taught from 2002 to 2008, although he was resident in Massachusetts for the 2007–08 academic year as the Oneida Indian Nation Visiting Associate Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He was a Rosenstiel Distinguished Professor of Law at the Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona in Tucson from 2008 to 2009, where he taught contracts, criminal law and gambling law.
He served as dean of the University of New Mexico School of Law from June 2009 to October 2012, bringing a strong background in Indian law, criminal law and gambling law and a prolific portfolio of books, book chapters, articles and congressional testimony. Through his writings and testimony, he has influenced public policy in both criminal law in Indian Country and gaming.
In 2012, Mr. Washburn was nominated by President Barack Obama to be the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior. He was confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate on Sep. 21, 2012, and was sworn into office by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on Oct. 9, 2012. He served in that position until Jan. 1, 2016, when he returned to the University of New Mexico as a faculty member.