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Heather Kendall-Miller being considered by Obama Administration

February 21st, 2009 Posted By: Morgan Howard No Comments


Heather Kendall-MillerAs reported earlier in this blog, Heather Kendall-Miller was on the short list for a new, high level position in the Obama Administration.  Now, Indian Country writes that she has been offered the job and is currently being vetted.  Kenall-Miller is Athabascan and a Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) shareholder.

Heather Kendall-Miller’s life story is very interesting.  She dropped out of high school, married and started a family, lived in a remote cabin, went to Harvard and was friends with Barack Obama and argued in front of the US Supreme Court.  Some of that story is captured here.  This was taken from a Harvard Law Bulletin.

Heather Kendall-Miller ’91 took a winding road to Harvard Law School—and there were grizzlies and caribou along the way.

Kendall-Miller’s mother, a full-blooded Athabascan, met her father when he returned to Alaska after being stationed in the Aleutian Islands during World War II. But she died when her daughter was 2, cutting her off from her native roots.

Raised in Fairbanks, Kendall-Miller dropped out of high school and went to work on the Alaska Pipeline, homesteading in a remote valley in the mountains north of the Yukon River. At 17, she married, and she and her husband built a cabin on the land, heated it with water they piped in from a hot spring a quarter mile away.

“I look back fondly on those years,” Kendall-Miller recalls. “We were dropped off in the middle of nowhere and built our cabin in a beautiful valley in the Ray Mountains. It was a wonderful, magical place surrounded by grizzlies and caribou and moose. We had to fly in by float plane, air-drop our supplies over the cabin, and then land on a lake seven miles away and hike back to the cabin.”

Kendall-Miller became pregnant when she was 21 and lived in the cabin for another two years until her marriage collapsed. A single mother working construction on the Alaska Pipeline, she realized that her daughter needed a more stable life.

So at age 25, she enrolled at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, where she developed an interest in Native American rights. She graduated magna cum laude and, based on the recommendation of a professor, applied to Harvard Law School.

“I knew all along that I wanted to come back to practice in Alaska,” she says. “It was exciting to be around all these incredibly smart people who were so purposeful. I knew Harvard would give me the credentials I needed to focus my career the way I wanted to and help Native Alaskans when I got back.”

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