Amber J. Bighorse

Compassion, empathy, and experience help me provide quality representation and customer service.

I am originally from the Western and Central regions of Oklahoma. I was born and had lived in Oklahoma all my life. But, after visiting the beautiful state of Washington in the Fall of 2013, I decided to make the Pacific Northwest my new home. I packed up my family and our belongings and moved to Tacoma in 2015.

I received my B.A. from the University of Oklahoma in 2002 and my law degree from Oklahoma City University in 2008. While at Oklahoma City University Law School, I also earned a Certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution. After my admittance to the Oklahoma State Bar later that same year, I accepted a position as Staff Attorney for the Legislative Branch of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. During my years working for the Tribes, I served in various capacities: Lead Staff Attorney for the Legislature; Chief In-House Counsel for the Executive Branch; attorney for the Tribal Council; and, attorney for the Election Commission. I also served as the Tribes’ Lieutenant Governor for two years.

My years in practice as an Indian Country attorney afforded me many opportunities to do pro bono work for individuals and families. This very satisfying work led me to begin a private practice, which I opened in 2011, aimed at providing much-needed low-cost legal services to those in Oklahoma’s Native communities. I expanded the practice to help others – outside the Native community – who also demonstrated great need. I have provided low-cost representation in the areas of criminal defense and a wide variety of family law practice areas, including CPS investigations and dependency actions.

Moving to Washington turned out to be the best decision I could have made for my children and myself. I have visited nearly every state in the United States and have traveled to various and exotic places in North America as well as across the oceans – Costa Rica, Mexico, South Africa, Europe. I have seen no place on earth as gorgeous and thrilling as the Pacific Northwest, and I have known no city better than the City of Tacoma. I am honored to have been welcomed and accepted by the wonderful people here.

As I begin my practice in Washington, I will rely on nearly a decade of experience handling family related legal issues. I hope to bring something positive to this community that I am so happy to call home.

Affiliations

  • Washington State Bar Association
  • Pierce County Bar Association
  • Oklahoma Bar Association
  • Native American Law Division​
  • Young Lawyer’s Division
  • Oklahoma Lawyer’s for Children
  • National Lawyer’s Guild

Professional Experience

Mayo & Bighorse Attorneys at Law

An Oklahoma Law Firm Managing Partner, 2011 through the Present

Mayo & Bighorse, Attorneys at Law have offered a wide range of legal services to Native Tribes and individuals in Native communities across Oklahoma. Our mission has been to provide low-cost and reduced-fee legal services to individuals and families in need of representation. Our areas of practice have included family law, criminal defense, probate, and wills. We also represent clients with personal injury claims.

Nations, Inc.

Bringing Renewable Resources & Sustainability to Indian Country 2014 Bridge to Finance Program Director

Nations, Inc. is a non-profit organization working to advance the principles of conservation and sustainability in Indian Country through economic development projects. As Director of the Bridge to Finance Program, I helped design a program that would assist Native American tribes to find and obtain funding for renewable energy development projects. I also worked on developing programs to educate Native communities on sustainability and greener living.

Lieutenant Governor

Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma May 2012 – January 2014

As Lieutenant Governor of my tribe, I served as second in command of the Executive Branch of tribal government, serving all departments & programs within tribal government and a tribal population of over 12,000 citizens. While in office, I engaged in frequent public speaking, represented the Tribes in Washington, D.C., and served as a senior advisor to the Governor.

Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes

September 2008 – June 2014

Lead In-House Attorney, Office of Legislative Counsel
Chief In-House Counsel, Executive Branch
Tribal Council General Counsel
Election Commission Attorney
Tax Commission Attorney

  • Researched and developed legislation including comprehensive tribal laws, resolutions and issue-specific ordinances
  • Knowledgeable about federal statutes and regulations affecting Indian Country including Title 25 of the Code of Federal Regulations, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and other provisions of Title 25 of the United States Code
  • Engaged in frequent communication and interaction with federal agencies, such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs and National Indian Gaming Commission
  • Experienced in prosecution actions before Interior Board of Indian Appeals​
  • Met with Congressional officials in Washington, D.C. to discuss matters greatly affecting the development of justice systems within dependent sovereign tribal nations
  • Coordinated with national lobbyists on issues affecting the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes and Indian Country
  • Efficiently managed legal team in the Office of Legislative Counsel by developing, drafting and implementing inter-office process and procedures
  • Oral Argument Experience: Presented oral argument before the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes Supreme Court
  • Litigation Experience: Drafted pleadings, motions and responses, trial and appellate briefs; extensive research and writing experience; assisted in the development of case strategy

Hobbs, Straus, Dean, & Walker, LLP

A National Indian Law Firm Associate Attorney, April 2010 – April 2011

Experienced in:

  • Trust Applications
  • Contracts Review and Drafting
  • Researched legal issues for various tribal entities; drafted advisory memos
  • Courtroom and Litigation Experience
  • Arbitration Enforcement – Drafted pleadings, briefing, and supporting documentation for federal arbitration enforcement action to enforce terms of tribal-state gaming compacts

Cape Immigration Compass Law Firm

Cape Town, South Africa Summer 2006

  • Interned at South African immigration law firm that specialized in assisting international businesses invest in South Africa
  • Researched and applied South African and international business and tax laws
  • Performed South African immigration legal research
  • Assisted with an international adoption and international child support enforcement cases

Pro Bono Experience

Over the years I have offered pro bono legal services those in need. I have provided free legal and extremely reduced-cost representation in the following areas:

  • Criminal Defense
  • Forcible Entry and Detainer Defense
  • Family Law
  • Wrongful Termination Representation and Negotiations
  • Child Welfare/CPS and Dependency Cases

Admissions

  • Washington State Bar
  • Oklahoma State District and Appellate Courts
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma
  • Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes Trial and Supreme Courts
  • Nisqually Indian Tribal Court
  • Osage Nation District and Supreme Courts
  • Absentee Shawnee Tribal Courts
  • Courts of Indian Offenses, Anadarko, Oklahoma

Professional Affiliations

  • Washington State Bar Association
  • Pierce County Bar Association
  • Oklahoma Bar Association
  • Native American Law Division
  • Young Lawyers Division
  • National Lawyers Guild
  • Oklahoma Lawyers for Children

Legal Education

Oklahoma City University School of Law

Juris Doctor May 2008 with Certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution*

Honors, Awards & Activities

  • OCU Merit Scholar
  • American Constitution Society
  • Chancellor’s List
  • OCU School of Law Dean’s List
  • OCU Mediation Competition Team – Regional Finalist 2008
  • American Indian Graduate Fellow
  • Native American Law Student Association
  • William J. Holloway American Inn of Courts Member
  • OCU Chapter National Lawyers Guild, Vice-President
  • OCU Student Ambassador, Nankai China Summer Exchange Law Program

*DISCLAIMER: The Supreme Court of Washington does not recognize certification of specialties in the practice of law. This certificate was awarded by Oklahoma City University School of Law in recognition of completion of their specialized Alternative Dispute Resolution program which includes emphasis on skills in negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. Such certification is not a requirement to engage in alternative dispute resolution in the state of Washington.

Howard University School of Law & University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa

2006 Summer Law Programs

  • International Business Transactions & U.S. Aspects of International Tax
  • Human Rights and Sustainable Development

2008 International Human Rights Clinic – Santa Clara Law School

Certificate, ICRC International Humanitarian Law Immersion Workshop

Honors & Awards

Oklahoma Human Rights Commission 2013 Human Rights Award for Outstanding Human Rights Achievement – Advocating for Marriage Equality

Emergency Call

In case of urgent, feel free to ask questions.