Success Stories

Brenna Hanley

Brenna Hanley is a distinguished graduate of the National Tribal Trial College Class of 2017 and was invited to serve as faculty for the 2020 NTTC course. She currently serves as a prosecutor for the Navajo Nation Office of the Prosecutor and is licensed to practice before the Navajo Nation Tribal Courts. Brenna represents victims in civil and criminal matters and also serves as an instructor for the Navajo Nation Police Academy. Her clans are the Kinyaa'áanii (Towering House), Tó'ahéédlíinii (Water Flow Together), Ashįįhí (Salt People), and Táchii'nii (Red Running Into the Water People). Brenna’s background includes ten plus years of experience working in administration and management positions for the United States Air Force and for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. She aspires to someday graduate from law school.

How would you describe your NTTC experience?

I graduated in July 2017. My experience was amazing from start to finish, the online material was clearly stated, the videos were personal and very enlightening, and the in-person week in Wisconsin was engaging. I absolutely loved every minute of NTTC. The entire staff are amazing people who make the course more exceptional. I learned a great deal that contributed to my passing the Navajo Nation bar exam and helped me hit the ground running as a tribal prosecutor. I took the bar exam while attending NTTC and was sworn in to practice shortly before I became a Certified Tribal Court Legal Lay Advocate. NTTC will forever be a part of my foundation in my pursuit of seeking tribal justice.

Did the NTTC training influence your advocacy for your clients and/or community?

My certification experience heavily influenced, and continues to enhance, my ability to highlight victim rights as a tribal prosecutor. I represent victims and the Navajo people in an in-depth and cultural manner that may have taken me several years to master without NTTC training.

What was your takeaway from serving as faculty for the 2020 NTTC course?

I looked forward to sharing my perspective of, “If I can do it, you can too!” With the quality training, having a positive mindset and the motivation to help victims, the students can be amazing factors for justice throughout Indian Country.

Do you have any advice for the Class of 2020?

I want them to know they already are doing a great thing for Indian Country and to keep going. I encourage every class member to take pride in protecting our people and everything we represent. Lastly, have fun and smile.

Phyllis Smoke now certified as a Tribal Court Legal Advocate for the Ho-Chunk Nation

The Ho-Chunk Nation has a new Tribal Court Legal Advocate. On July 12, 2019, Phyllis Smoke, Legislative Chief Clerk, graduated from the National Tribal Trial College with a Certificate in Tribal Court Legal Advocacy. The 6 month course is sponsored by the United States Department of Justice and enables graduates to practice law and represent clients in Tribal courts.

Thirty two graduates representing 27 different Tribes located in 15 different states completed the 2019 Certificate course. Ms. Smoke’s intensive training enables her to now represent clients in Tribal court divorce, child custody, child support, visitation, domestic violence protection orders and victim rights cases.

“Our graduates are actually more qualified to provide legal representation in Tribal Courts than most attorneys”, says the Dean of the National Tribal Trial College, Hallie Bongar White. “They undergo more than 20 weeks and 200 hours of online study before completing 40 hours of trial skills training onsite at the University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison, Wisconsin. The faculty all have practical, real world litigation expertise in advancing safety and justice in Indian Country and in Alaska Native Villages."

Graduates are required to master legal research, writing, and analysis through a series of readings, online lecture videos, assignments, and quizzes. Only the top students in the online course then qualify to attend the award winning, in person courtroom training at the University of Wisconsin Law School. Now in its 5th year, the National Tribal Trial College has graduated 114 legal advocates representing clients in Tribal courts from Alaska to Massachusetts.

Phyllis Smoke is required to take the Ho-Chunk Nation Bar Exam prior to practicing in the Ho-Chunk Nation court.

“Shout out to the Ho-Chunk Nation Judiciary Branch for their continued support,” mentioned Smoke.

For more information about the National Tribal Trial College: please visit

Legal Advocacy graduates

On Friday July 14th, 2017, Victim Service Program Coordinator Lisa Manzanares and Victim Service Advocate Joann Gomez graduated from a six month online program titled Tribal Court Legal Advocacy Program. The program finished with a weeklong classroom phase.

This course required numerous hours of study, tests, and personal time. On Friday, July 14, the ladies received their well-deserved diplomas. This program was sponsored by the National Tribal Trial College at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Participants had to apply before being accepted into the program. This is a prestigious training program that had attendees from Indian Tribes hailing from Alaska to Oklahoma.

The training required Gomez and Manzanares to prepare cases and present them before judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys in a courtroom setting. This training will allow these ladies to better advocate for their clients in court.

Our staff here at the Southern Ute Police Department would like to congratulate Lisa Manzanares and Joann Gomez for a job well done! Joann said this was the hardest training program she’s ever had to take in her over 30 years here at the Tribe. The new graduates were serenaded by members of the school’s marching band following the graduation ceremony.