SAIO 50 for 50:Jenny Magallanes
Patten Magallanes (San Carlos Apache, Native Hawaiian) is an attorney and federal lobbyist for tribal governments and enterprises. She is counsel in the American Indian Law and Policy and Public Law and Policy groups at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld LLP in Washington, D.C. Her work focuses on advising clients on regulatory and economic development issues, including land use, gaming, and rights-of-way. She also supports litigation on tribal issues in federal court, and legislative advocacy before Congress and with federal agencies. Prior to law school, Patten Magallanes attended Public Health school, and worked at the Native American Health Center in Oakland and Blue Shield of California in San Francisco.
As an undergraduate, Patten Magallanes served as co-chair of the Stanford American Indian Organization, was a member of both the Stanford Powwow Committee and American Indian Science and Engineering Society, worked at the Native American Cultural Center, and lived in Muwekma during her freshman year.
Patten Magallanes is from Oakland, California and is the first in her family to attend college. She is a proud mother of two young daughters. In addition to her Stanford degree in Political Science, Patten Magallanes has a master’s degree in Health Policy and Management from the Harvard School of Public Health and a juris doctor from Columbia Law School.
Why did you attend both Public Health and Law School?
My passion for health reform is rooted in my family’s own personal experiences being denied health coverage and my parents’ fight to secure health insurance for our family. Growing up in East Oakland, California, as a San Carlos Apache woman, I learned from an early age that business, economics, and politics allow some people to enjoy health coverage and superior care, while others are left behind. As a Gates Millennium Scholar, I knew that I could attend Public Health school and have it largely paid for, so I decided to apply. By pursuing a Master’s degree in Health Policy and Management, I sought to attack laws and reform health policy for low-income and communities of color. However, my experience working at the Native American Health Center in my hometown during public health school showed me that access issues and health disparities were symptoms of broader systemic legal, social, and economic inequities. I decided to attend law school in order to develop the legal skill set to become an effective advocate and fight against such inequity within the legal system. I conquered my fear of the LSAT and applied for law school. Fortunately, Columbia let me in and I moved to New York. After my first year of law school, I earned a summer internship with Berkey Williams LLP, a boutique law firm that exclusively serves Tribes and Tribal organizations. This internship helped me learn more broadly about the wide variety of legal needs facing Indian Country and expanded my knowledge of the legal challenges Tribal Nations face in protecting their sovereignty and holding the federal government accountable for its trust and treaty responsibilities, including health care. Inspired by my mentors there, I pivoted to pursue a career focused on Federal Indian law more broadly. In my second year of law school, Akin Gump’s preeminent American Indian Law and Policy group selected me as a summer associate in its Washington, DC office and I loved my experience serving tribes and tribal organizations by working on lobbying, litigation, and regulatory issues at the federal level with the top lobbying firm in DC. I started full-time at Akin Gump seven years ago and am still sometimes able to leverage my public health background in my work.
What do you like the most about what you do?
My favorite thing about my work is being able to seek innovative solutions and tackle complex problems for tribal governments on projects that have positive impacts for all Tribal Nations. Most of the time, the solutions require a combination of working with officials within the Administration and Congressional offices, or else having a back-up litigation strategy. On a typical day, I might accompany a client to a hill meeting, draft comments on a proposed rule to submit to the Department of the Interior, and later that day, perform legal research and draft a brief for litigation in Federal court. Each day is very different, and I love being able to work in a multi-faceted manner to protect and defend tribal sovereignty, with a tight-knit team of attorneys in my AILP practice group. I am grateful for the ability to grow as an attorney and learn through the awesome mentorship of my practice group leader and AILP mentors. What is the most interesting case you’ve worked on so far and what are you currently working (that you can share)? Recently I have been working nonstop to help our clients fight COVID-19 and the pandemic’s impact on their Nations. My days are full interpreting the CARES Act and guidance in order to help our clients secure funding and use the funding in compliant ways. I monitor and participate in litigation to ensure that the Coronavirus Relief Funds get to Tribal governments within statutory deadlines. From a policy and lobbying standpoint, I also support legal and legislative efforts to help increase funding for Tribal governments, to maximize flexibility in how Tribal governments can use the funds and provide advice in other areas related to infrastructure for responding to the pandemic. My COVID-19 work has been incredibly fast-paced and high stakes given the ever-evolving legal, regulatory, and legislative landscape, and intense need to help provide advice on a quick turnaround to save lives and prevent or offset the negative effects of the pandemic on indigenous communities. I feel honored and grateful to be able to play a part in fighting COVID-19 and feel my public health background has helped prepare me for this battle.
Please share a favorite SAIO/Stanford native community memory or story.
My favorite SAIO/Stanford Native Community memories all involve Muwekma and the Stanford Powwow. My favorite Muwekma memory was move-in day as a freshman. I remember feeling all of the love and support from the staff, many of whom became my life-long best friends. I was a first-generation college student afraid to leave home, even though it meant that I was only a 40-minute drive away from my mom. But, I felt so excited to be a Stanford student and felt at home at Muwekma! One of my favorite Powwow memories was dancing with my fellow seniors during our honoring in our Stanford shawls. Each year we worked so hard, got dusty and dirty, giving it our all, in order to put together this important cultural event. It was especially meaningful because the Stanford Powwow was my first introduction to a college campus as a little girl, and my experiences as a child inspired me to apply and attend Stanford. I felt like I came full circle.
What was one of the major issues facing the native community (at Stanford or more broadly) while you were at Stanford?
During my time at Stanford, SAIO was largely focused on securing academic and writing tutoring for Native students, increasing faculty diversity, sustaining the University’s support for the Powwow, and increasing mental health and culturally appropriate resources for Native students. SAIO also made some news in fighting the resurgence of the racist old Stanford Indian mascot. During my junior year, the mascot was making a comeback by some student groups and alumni organizations. I was one of the co-chairs at the time, and we led advocacy efforts against the racist mascot, calling on President John Hennessy to rebuke the Stanford “Indian” logo. As a result of SAIO’s collective efforts, President Hennessey wrote a letter, rebuking the mascot and discouraging the use, which led to widespread discontinued use.
What would you like to see happen in the Stanford native community in the next 50 years?
The Stanford Native community is so special- no other elite University compares in terms of the commitment, resources, and support offered to Stanford Native students. Much of our experiences have also been shaped by the love and support of the NACC staff (love you Denni and Greg!) and the Muwekma staff. In the next 50 years, I hope that the Stanford Native community continues to hold the University accountable in order to protect and secure these resources for generations to come, and that our alumni community develops a stronger unified voice to support the students. I also would like to see lots more Stanford Native faculty members (ideally some of my Professor friends!) and a community that continues to embrace all indigenous students and their diverse identities.