John E. EchoHawk (Pawnee) is a Native American attorney and founder of Native American Rights Fund (NARF), established in 1970. He is a leading member of the Native American self-determination movement.
Early life and education
John E. EchoHawk was born into a Pawnee family and is an enrolled member of the tribe.
In 1970 EchoHawk was the first Native American to graduate from the University of New Mexico School of Law. He decided to use his knowledge to benefit Indians who did not understand Native American laws.
After law school, EchoHawk joined the staff of California Indian Legal Services. EchoHawk joined other lawyers and tribal members to form the Native American Rights Fund in 1970, which was similar in goals to the National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) (both were based on civil ritghts activism of minority groups). EchoHawk centered NARF's focus around preserving tribes, protecting tribal resources, protecting human rights, ensuring government responsibility, expanding Indian law and educating people about Indian issues. Through NARF, EchoHawk has had a range of civil rights successes, from government recognition of the reach of tribal sovereignty to passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).
EchoHawk is the older brother of Idaho politician Larry EchoHawk, who served as Idaho's State Attorney General 1991-1995, and as director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the President Barack Obama administration. John was influential in encouraging Larry to follow him in gaining a law degree.
John EchoHawk served on President Obama's first transition team on Indian affairs. He has been discussed by the Obama administration as a possible nominee to the federal bench. The brothers are cousins of Walter Echo-Hawk, a senior staff attorney at NARF who contributed to NAGPRA.