NCAI and NARF Congratulate Judge Sunshine Sykes (Navajo) on Her Confirmation to Serve as California’s First Ever Native American Federal Judge

Published on May 18, 2022

Today, the United States Senate confirmed the nomination of Sunshine Skyes to serve as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Justice Sykes is the first Native federal judge in California, the fourth active Native American Article III federal judge in the nation, and just the seventh Native federal judge ever appointed.

With her strong legal experience and perspective, Judge Sykes is well qualified to serve on the federal bench. Prior to her confirmation, Judge Sykes spent years working for California Indian Legal Services, as a juvenile defense attorney with the Southwest Justice Center, and as a Riverside County Attorney. She has served as a judge on the Superior Court of Riverside County for nine years, where she most recently presided over a civil litigation department and acted as the presiding judge of the appellate division.

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) First Vice President Mark Macarro noted that, “Judge Sykes’ extensive knowledge and experience are vitally important for the federal judiciary, particularly in California where countless federal Indian law issues arise among the more than 100 Tribal Nations within the state.” Macarro added, “NCAI congratulates Judge Sykes on her historic confirmation and furthering the representation of Natives in the federal judiciary. It is critical, now more than ever, that more qualified American Indians and Alaska Natives be appointed to the federal courts, especially given how much of tribal life is controlled by federal law and the courts’ interpretations of those laws.”

“NCAI and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) have long advocated for increased Native representation in the federal judiciary,” said NARF Executive Director John Echohawk. “It benefits everyone when federal judges understand the unique relationship between the United States and Tribal Nations and reflect a more diverse swath of the districts that they serve.”


About the Native American Rights Fund:
Founded in 1970, NARF is the oldest and largest non-profit dedicated to asserting and defending the rights of Indian tribes, tribal organizations, and individual Indians nationwide. For the past 48 years, NARF has represented over 275 Tribes in 31 states in such areas as tribal jurisdiction, federal recognition, land claims, hunting and fishing rights, religious liberties, and voting rights. For more information, visit

About the National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information, visit


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