Arizona Law Alumna Named AAIA Executive Director

Oct. 25, 2017

Shannon Keller O’Loughlin (’01) has been named executive director of the Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA), a nonprofit advocacy organization whose mission is to improve the well-being of American Indian and Alaska Natives in the areas of education, health, children and youth, environmental and cultural preservation, and tribal sovereignty.

O’Loughlin is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. During her time at the University of Arizona Law, she served in the Clinton White House as a Udall intern, participated with faculty from Arizona Law’s Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy (IPLP) Program at proceedings of United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva, Switzerland with the Western Shoshone Defense Project, and received the 3L of the Year Award from the National Native American Law Students Association.

Since the inception of the Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA), the organization has played a leading role in the passage of milestone legislation including the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), and the Tribal Governmental Tax Status Act and has successfully negotiated multiple agreements to protect sacred lands for tribal communities.

“I am honored to be chosen as the executive director of AAIA,” said O’Loughlin. “My desire is to carry on AAIA's longstanding advocacy in Indian Country, which has added important legislation to the body of federal Indian law such as ICWA and NAGPRA, while continuing to work on grass-roots programs that support tribal self-sufficiency and self-determination. I am grateful for the support of IPLP faculty, who continue to shape how I will do business as a legal warrior with AAIA.”

Proven Experience Serving Indian Country
O’Loughlin brings extensive experience practicing law in Indian Country to her role as AAIA executive director. Prior to joining AAIA, she was the chief of staff for the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), where she assisted in the development and implementation of policy for NIGC and managed the agency’s compliance, technology, public affairs, and finance divisions.

During her time at NIGC, O’Loughlin was appointed by President Obama to serve as a member of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee at the Department of State. She was also nominated by the Seneca and Choctaw Nations and appointed by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Review Committee in 2013.

O’Loughlin’s prior experience also includes serving as chair and partner of the Indian Nations Law and Policy Practice at Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP. She has also worked in her own private practice for tribal governments, businesses, and nonprofits on issues including treaty rights, economic development, constitutional reform and law development, cultural resources and sacred sites, child welfare, and tribal courts.