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Kiowa Citizen Nominated for Federal Court

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On Wednesday, President Barack Obama nominated Paul A. Engelmayer and Arvo Mikkanen to United States District Court judgeships. “I am proud to nominate these two outstanding candidates to serve on the United States District Court,” said the president, according to a release. “I am confident they will serve the American people with integrity and distinction.”

Mikkanen, who has been an assistant U.S. attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma since 1994, is an enrolled Kiowa citizen and of Comanche descent. He has had a distinguished career in Native American law, having served as a trial and appellate judge for Court of Indian Offenses and Court of Indian Appeals for the Kiowa, Comanche, Apache, Wichita, Caddo, Delaware, Fort Sill Apache, Ponca, Pawnee, Kaw, Otoe-Missouria, and Tonkawa Tribes. From 1991 to 1994, he served as the chief justice of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Supreme Court.

Mikkanen needs to be confirmed by the Senate to take on the new position.

In a release dated Feb. 3, the National Congress of American Indians commended the Obama administration’s nomination, and asked the Senate to move for a quick confirmation.

"Assistant U.S. Attorney Mikkanen has served our country for many years as a federal prosecutor, and with his vast experience in both federal and tribal law, he is an excellent choice for the Federal District Court in Northern Oklahoma,” said Jefferson Keel, president of NCAI, in a statement. “We urge the Senate to act swiftly to confirm Mr. Mikkanen’s nomination and make the federal judiciary more representative of all citizens of this country, including Native Americans.”

NCAI said Mikkanen would be "the only Native American serving on the federal bench, out of a total of 875 federal judgeships, and only the third Native American in history to secure a federal judgeship." The organization listed the other two American Indians to serve on the federal judiciary as Frank Seay (now on senior status), nominated by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, and Billy Burrage, nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1994.