Success Stories

Angela de los Santos

Domestic Violence Advocate, Morongo Band of Mission Indians Class of 2020

After graduating the NTTC in 2020, Angela de los Santos advocated for a Tribal citizen of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians in an attempted murder/domestic violence assault case off of reservation lands in the neighboring state of California. A year into the criminal case, de los Santos and the victim, Joanna Saubel, learned that the charges were going to be dropped because of erroneous documentation that Joanna was not willing to testify. According to de los Santos, "I told them that this was unacceptable and that Joanna would be willing to testify, along with her children."

With the help of the Morongo Legal Department, de los Santos was also able to gather all of the defendant’s criminal records from other jurisdictions (including the Morongo Reservation) and deliver them to the La Paz County Attorney's Office. Angela was able to revive the criminal charges that successfully led to the defendant pleading guilty. De los Santos worked with NTTC faculty and the victim to develop a powerful victim impact statement delivered to the court at the sentencing hearing. The defendant received a sentence of 7 ½ years in prison.

Throughout the criminal proceedings, de los Santos encouraged Joanna to attend trauma informed counseling and women’s healing circle sessions. As a result of the legal advocacy by de los Santos, Joanna applied for her own admission to NTTC and is on track to graduate with her Tribal Court Legal Advocacy Certificate in July 2021. As an added bonus, Joanna recruited yet another student in the Class of 2021, Ciana Wyant (Torres Martinez Desert Coahuila Indians). Wyant works as a victim advocate for her neighboring tribe, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, with de los Santos. The work of one powerful victim advocate will now result in three NTTC graduates increasing safety and justice for Indigenous women and children in tribal courts.

Recently, Joanna was awarded $45,000 at the restitution hearing as a result of her and Angela’s hard work locating the original vehicle loan paperwork, the Kelly Blue Book value of her destroyed SUV, and mechanic’s estimates of repair costs. Congratulations Angela and Joanna on a successful conviction. Thank you for continuing the NTTC legacy and recruiting powerful Indigenous advocates to our program.

Phyllis Smoke

Ho-Chunk Nation
Class 2019

Congratulations to Phyllis Smoke (NTTC Class of 2019) on her successful election as District I Legislator for the Ho-Chunk Nation. Phyllis was sworn in on June 30th, 2021 and joins the ranks of NTTC grads now holding higher office.

Gerard Padgett

Class of 2021

New NTTC Grad Successfully Advocates for Change in Tribal Code

Under federal law, all states, Tribes, and Territories must afford Full Faith and Credit to valid domestic violence protection orders issued by other jurisdictions.  18 U.S.C. Section 2265 applies to every federally recognized Tribe in the United States. However, many tribal codes do not contain specific language mandating that their Tribe fully enforce all valid, “foreign” protection orders. 

During the NTTC course, Gerard Padgett (NTTC Class of 2021) recognized that his own tribal code was silent on Full Faith and Credit. This raised the very real possibility that victims could fall through the cracks in the system. 

Immediately after graduating, Gerard and his supervisor proposed a revision to the tribal code and successfully advocated before Tribal Council to amend Blackfeet law. Full Faith and Credit for domestic violence protection orders is now firmly enshrined within their code. 

Gerard is a descendent of the Blackfeet Nation where he serves as a Domestic Violence and Legal Advocate. He was the recipient of the NTTC 2021 Moot Court Award and credits the skills he learned in reading and dissecting tribal codes as the impetus for his advocacy before Tribal Council to update the code. Congratulations, Gerard! 

Chastity Sandoval

Navajo Nation

Victim/Legal Advocate for Nambe Pueblo

Class of 2020

Leaning into your National Tribal Trial College network helps to overcome challenges

Chastity Sandoval works as a Victim/Legal Advocate for Nambe Pueblo (located in rural Northern New Mexico.) Nambe Pueblo citizens traditionally had little access to civil legal services or victim rights legal representation until Chastity completed her Certificate in Tribal Court Legal Advocacy last year. Although the entire course had to be moved online during the pandemic, Chastity still feels like she has built up a considerable legal skill set along with a powerful network of advocates and attorneys that she can rely on when challenges arise.

Since graduating with her Certificate in 2020, Sandoval has won 4 out of the 6 tribal court protection order cases including representation of a non-tribal victim against her tribal citizen abuser. It is common that victims who have experienced significant domestic violence and trauma fail to appear at initial court hearings. In this case, Chastity was undeterred when the victim failed to appear at the first protection order hearing and the case was dismissed. She continued to work with the victim to increase safety and resources, building trust all along the way. Eventually, the victim gained the confidence to refile for the protection order and, with Chastity’s unsurpassed legal skills, won a permanent Order of Protection with expansive remedies for the victim in Nambe Tribal Court.

Without the help of her NTTC legal training and network of legal advocates and attorneys, Chastity believes she would not have been able to have won the contested protection order. She believes that the best part of her job is “empowering women and supporting them through these stressful times of their lives.” She reminds survivors that the situation is temporary, and, with her help and the help of the courts, a brighter future lies ahead.

Sandoval highly recommends the NTTC to her peers in New Mexico and beyond. She believes that her strong note-taking skills and “leaning into your network” have been keys to her success. “There are still many difficulties working with BIA law enforcement and finding resources to keep the survivors safe.” said Sandoval. Today, Sandoval continues to look for ways to improve conditions for Native women and children on Nambe Pueblo and is actively working to update and improve the Pueblo’s legal codes, policies, and procedures related to violence against women.

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.