Tamera Begay

Legislative Associate, Navajo Nation Washington Office

2015 | Washington. DC

Arizona State| Business & PR

“There’s a sense of teamwork amongst professors and staff—they’re willing to help students with anything.”

Most people will do everything they can to support their family. For Tamera Begay, ’15, that involved going to law school to get her Juris Doctor and becoming the first in her family to become a lawyer. Begay’s definition of family also includes her tribe to whom she now devotes her services as an attorney prosecutor and juvenile presenting officer for the Navajo Nation.

“I went to law school to help my tribe. My passion has always been to help my people,” said Begay. “I just never thought I would be representing my Nation in their criminal court.”

Having left her family and tribe in New Mexico to pursue her JD, Begay found a home away from home through the Indigenous Law and Policy Clinic (ILPC) at MSU Law with professors who have devoted their careers to working on behalf of indigenous people and tribes.

“1L year is hard on everyone, but the ILPC professors allowed me to walk into their office with no appointment to just vent,” said Begay. Also, when her father suffered a medical emergency right before finals during her 1L year and Begay contemplated returning home, the ILPC faculty supported her to do what she needed to do.

“Professor Fletcher, Professor Singel, and Professor Fort were all on standby to assist me in extending my final examinations if needed,” said Begay. “My father turned out to be okay, and he told me to finish what I started. Knowing that I had a supportive team when I was thousands of miles away from home was very comforting.”

She found additional support from her classmates. Begay said some of her favorite memories from MSU Law were preparing for the National Native American Law Student Association Moot Court Competition with her peers from the ILPC.

Begay has been in the field for a few years now, working at the National Congress of American Indians and the Navajo Nation Washington Office, both in Washington D.C. She still recognizes how the ILPC courses readied her by developing advocacy skills and tribal client interactions for her career. 

“The classes taught by ILPC prepared me to work with tribal governments across the United States,” said Begay. “There are numerous tribal governments across the country that face very different legal and policy issues, and the well-rounded education that I received from ILPC prepared me to work with different tribes.”