USD law students to offer legal services to South Dakota Indian Reservations during spring break

VERMILLION, S.D. -- Seven students from The University of South Dakota School of Law will spend their spring break traveling to Indian reservations in South Dakota for the Indian Wills Project.

In collaboration with Dakota Plains Legal Services and Equal Justice Works/AmeriCorps, the USD School of Law students hope to open 30 new case files for Dakota Plains Legal Services. 

Janet Jessup of Jerome, Idaho, secretary of USD’s Native American Law Student Association (NALSA) chapter, says USD School of Law students will travel to three of South Dakota’s reservations and host informational and service activities in Wagner, Fort Thompson and Eagle Butte. The project seeks to write wills for tribal residents during a span of three days while also raising public awareness that Indian Estate Planning services remain available through Dakota Plains Legal Services on all nine reservations in South Dakota. 

While in Wagner, S.D., students will also host a public informational meeting regarding the Cobell v. Salazar case, a class-action lawsuit led by Elouise Cobell, a Blackfoot rancher and banker from Montana. She had claimed that allottees of tribal land deserve to receive money for the billions of dollars in oil, gas, grazing, timber and other royalties overseen by the U.S. Interior Department since 1887. Joe Thronson, a graduate of the USD School of Law and an attorney for Equal Justices Works, will address members of the Yankton Sioux Tribe about the Cobell settlement, trust lands and discuss the need for estate planning.

During last year’s spring break, more than a dozen USD NALSA students were a part of a week long effort that visited four South Dakota reservations and successfully opened 71 new estate planning files with DPLS.

Spring break at USD begins March 4, with classes scheduled to resume Monday morning, March 14.