For more than 25 years, Brett Lee Shelton (Oceti Sakowin Oyate) has been a fierce advocate in the field of Indian Law. Prior to joining NARF as a staff attorney, Brett spent several years working in private practice and for nonprofits focused on domestic violence responses, genetic research and Indigenous Peoples, and Indian health policy. More recently, his work at NARF focuses on the Indigenous Peacemaking Initiative, Sacred Places Protection, and Boarding School Healing.

In addition to his direct legal work, Brett’s specialized knowledge and experience has allowed him to serve Indian Country in various ways. He has written extensively on issues including peacemaking, boarding school healing, and Indian health policy. He has taught as a peacemaking trainer, mediation specialist, and international Indigenous rights advocate. In recent years, he has served as a judge in several tribal courts of appeals.

Tribal Affiliation

  • Enrolled Oglala Sioux (Lakota) Tribe


  • Stanford Law School, J.D.
    Indian Graduate Student of the Year, John Milton Oskison Award for best graduate student paper
  • University of Kansas, M.A. Philosophy
  • Baker University, B.S. Business and Philosophy, magna cum laude
    Minors: Economics and Political Science

Admissions to Practice

  • South Dakota (inactive), Oglala Sioux Tribal Courts, Colorado, California (inactive), Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, U.S. District Court for South Dakota, 8th Circuit Court of Appeals


  • “Using Peacemaking Circles to Indigenize Tribal Child Welfare” with Lauren van Schilfgaarde, Coloumbia Journal of Race and Law, Vol 11 3, pp. 681-710 (July 1, 2021)
  • “Federal Medicaid Policy Provides Much-Needed Resources for Native Communities” with J. Roberts, in Indian Country Today, August 12, 2020;
  • Contributor, Native American Rights Fund, Trigger Points: Current Stat of Research on History, Impacts, and Healing Related to the United States’ Indian Industrial/Boarding School Policy,(Boulder, CO: Native American Rights Fund 2019).
  • “Impact of ACA Repeal on American Indians and Alaska Natives” with D. Warne, D. Delrow, C. Angus-Hornbuckle, 2017,
  • Issue Brief: Legal and Historical Roots of Health Care for American Indians and Alaska Natives in the United States, Publication #7021, (Menlo Park, CA: Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, February 2004).
  • “Legal and Historical Basis of Indian Health Care,” in Promises to Keep: American Indian and Alaska Native Health Care in the 21st Century, Dixon and Roubideaux, eds., (Washington, DC: American Public Health Association, 2001).
  • “Economic and Organizational Changes in Health Care Systems,” (co-author) in Promises to Keep: American Indian and Alaska Native Health Care in the 21st Century, Dixon and Roubideaux, eds., (Washington, DC: American Public Health Association, 2001).
  • “Genetic ‘Markers’ are Not a Valid Test of Native Identity”, with Jonathan Marks, in GeneWatch, (Cambridge, MA: Council for Responsible Genetics, Winter 2000)
  • Indigenous Peoples, Genes, and Genetics: What Indigenous Peoples Should Know about the New Biotechnology, (Nixon, NV: Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism, 2000).
  • Tribal Perspectives on Indian Self-Determination and Self-Governance in Health Care Management (Denver: National Indian Health Board, 1998);
  • “Intellectual and Cultural Property Rights and Indigenous Peoples”  with Keith Harper (Boulder, CO: Native American Rights Fund, 1996)
  • “A View from the Front Lines: Current Status of Four Water Rights Cases,” Water Resources Update, no. 107, American Resources Council, Spring 1997.

Download high resolution headshot of Brett Shelton here.

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