Heather Torres is a Program Director at the Tribal Law and Policy Institute (TLPI). Heather serves as Vice Chair to the Section's Native American Concerns Committee.
Where are you from? How have your experiences here, or throughout your upbringing, influenced your passions and aspirations today?
I am an enrolled member of San Ildefonso Pueblo, and descendant of the Navajo Nation (Diné) and Mexican peoples. I grew up in the Inland Empire of Southern California in the lands of the Yuhaaviatam clan of Maara’yam (Serrano) peoples.
My experiences in Southern California, away from my tribal homelands, impacted me immensely. I am proud to be from the Inland Empire, a place that is often disregarded or misunderstood, and proud to be taken care of by the striking mountains and valleys that characterize the homelands of the Serrano. My upbringing gave me a toughness and confidence that developed my sense of commitment to serve and advocate for others that guides me today.
What drives you?
Family. I think regularly about my ancestors and everything they went through for me to be here.
What is one thing most people do not know about you that you feel they should?
I LOVE chips and salsa. I can eat a whole bag/jar in one sitting if you let me.
When you look back, what is it that you want your advocacy and professional career to stand for?
Tribal Sovereignty. Positive change, especially for those systemically and colonially underserved and oppressed.
What is one issue which you care about or work most on and why?
Tribally specific and centered protections (codes, law, policy, program development etc.) to defend and sustain tribal families and communities. These are essential to the continued growth and health of tribal nations, but also are the strongest defense against the arms of contemporary colonialism.
What do you feel is the greatest challenge facing this issue today?
The U.S. government and its diminishment and disrespect of tribal authority.
In what corners do you find the greatest support in propelling these issues you work on? In other words, who are your most frequent allies?
Tribal governments, tribal organizations, and those who understand tribal issues are similar but inherently different from those experienced by other racial and ethnic groups. The ABA Section of CRSJ has been a huge source of support!
What CRSJ project(s) are you working on? Or, what have you undertaken in CRSJ that you found the most rewarding to have worked on? Are there any upcoming events or projects you want us all to know about?
I am on the leadership team for the CRSJ Native American Concerns Committee, a wonderfully busy and ambitious committee that regularly produces well-attended programs and authors timely resolutions. What I have enjoyed most is working with others to draft and pass resolutions, particularly on the MMIW epidemic, Indian Boarding Schools, and protections for victims of crime.