North Dakota Law

Updates from the University of North Dakota School of Law.

CANCELED: Danelle Smith, 2023 Distinguished Indian Law Speaker


Tribal Self-Governance in Action: A New Era of Healthcare for the Winnebago Tribe

The Northern Plains Indian Law Center is proud to host the Annual Distinguished Indian Law Speaker on Thursday, April 20 from 3:00-4:30 p.m. at UND School of Law in room 203.

Smith is a founding Partner with Big Fire Law & Policy Group, LLP, a 100% Native-owned, majority women-owned, law firm dedicated to the representation of American Indian tribes and organizations throughout the United States. She has spent her career advocating and working on behalf of Tribes and tribal interests. Smith has extensive experience in a broad range of policy, governance, administrative, business, and economic development matters.

From 2018-2022, Smith served as the first Chief Executive Officer of the newly established Winnebago Comprehensive Healthcare System (WCHS), a subdivision of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.  The WCHS manages all the Tribe’s health programs, including the Twelve Clans Unity Hospital and the Winnebago Public Health Department. In 2018, WCHS assumed operational responsibility for the federal Indian Health Service (IHS) hospital located in Winnebago. Prior to the assumption, she was instrumental in the Tribe’s Self-governance Steering Committee, which was created to carry out planning and implementation activities necessary for the Tribe to assume management of the hospital under the P.L. 93-938 Indian Self-determination and Education Assistance Act.

She is active in community and non-profit organizations, currently serving on the Boards of Directors for the Ho-Chunk Community Development Corporation, Winnebago Health Foundation, and the Nebraska Appleseed.

Smith has received numerous awards for her work including the Nebraska Appleseed’s Good Apple Roots of Justice Award (2021), the National Indian Health Board’s Local Impact Award (2020), and the Wayne State College School of Business & Technology Outstanding Alumni Award (2017).  She a lifetime member of the Nebraska State Bar Foundation Fellows Program, was previously selected as a “Native American 40 under 40” award recipient by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED) and is an alumnus of the Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO) Ambassadors Program.

She has a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in human resource management from Wayne State College in Nebraska and a juris doctorate degree from the University of Iowa School of Law. She is a member of the Winnebago Tribe.