Mary Bodine-Watts

Mary Bodine-Watts BA '09, JD '13, adjunct faculty of law



Degree and Class Year

BA ’09, JD ’13


Portland, Oregon

Current City

Portland, Oregon


Environmental Studies


Native Student Union

Job Title, Organization

Adjunct Faculty, Indian Law Program, Lewis & Clark Law School; Lawyer, Bonneville Power Administration

What three words would you use to describe L&C?

Passion, Commitment, Dedication

Tell us about your heritage. How has this shaped your educational and/or career journey?

I’m an enrolled citizen of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation of Oregon. More specifically, my family is of the Wasco people. The term “Confederated Tribes” means that multiple bands or groups of Native Americans are included in a single tribe or on a single reservation. Ultimately three separate bands were moved to the Warm Springs reservation: the Wasco, Warm Springs, and Paiute tribes. My ancestors lived along the Columbia River and primarily subsisted on the bountiful salmon runs. As an environmental studies major, I focused on environmental toxicology and impacts to salmon populations. As a law student, I focused on environmental law and federal Indian law. My heritage—in particular my connection with salmon and the natural environment—has been the foundation of my educational journey.

Where do you find some of your most significant influences from your heritage, such as role models or inspirations (these could be from your past and/or current)?

As a high school student, Professor Robert Miller was a key influencer in my life. He pushed me to pursue college and law school, and he was always a great mentor and friend. My current inspirations are the Indigenous students at L&C’s College of Arts and Sciences and Law School. The Native Student Union (NSU) and Native American Law Student Association (NALSA) students are so inspiring! They are passionate, caring, and some of the hardest working students I know. One of the reasons I stay so involved with the school is to make sure that these students have the support they need to be successful in their academic pursuits and post-graduate endeavors.

What have you been doing since graduation?

What haven’t I been doing? In my environmental studies Senior Seminar, I recall writing out my five-year plan and I actually did exactly what was in it. At that time, it was namely pursuing law school. After I graduated from Lewis & Clark College, I moved on to Lewis & Clark Law School, where I focused on federal Indian law and environmental law. I graduated and passed the bar in 2014, and then I was selected for a fellowship working in the House of Representatives for Congressman DeFazio. After my work in Washington, D.C., I accepted a position working for the Bonneville Power Administration as an attorney handling power sales contracts and related issues. A few years later, I had the opportunity to teach NALSA Moot Court at L&C with Adjunct Professor Caroline Lobdell. After teaching that class for a few years, I was then asked to coteach Federal Indian Law. I love my primary job at BPA, but I do not engage with tribal issues as much as I would like, so teaching has been a great way to stay engaged on tribal issues in a meaningful way. Most recently, my husband and I have jumped into the parenting game. We have a rambunctious two-year-old child who likes to climb on everything.

How did Lewis & Clark prepare you for your job and for teaching at the law school?

Having an interdisciplinary background from L&C has helped me be successful in both my primary job as a lawyer and in teaching at the law school. In the legal field, you need to have strong skills in communication, research, and writing, and be disciplined as a person (avoid procrastination, meet your deadlines and commitments). I feel like Lewis & Clark built on all of these skills. Whether through presentations in my environmental studies Senior Seminar, to writing multiple papers for sociology and anthropology and many other classes, Lewis & Clark challenged me and made all those skills well rounded. Teachers also took the time to provide meaningful feedback. All of this helped develop the key skills that are instrumental to any legal career. More specifically to teaching, the Federal Indian Law course is unique in how it is tied to history. While I teach the core legal doctrine, I teach it in a way that uses history to guide the development of the law and policies. This goes back to the interdisciplinary liberal arts education that emphasizes having a full understanding and appreciates multiple perspectives. The historical perspectives certainly add another layer to the conversation and aid in students’ understanding of the legal doctrine.

What would you say is the most important thing you learned at Lewis & Clark

You have to be engaging to get engagement. The best classes I took whether at the law school or undergraduate college were those that had engaging professors. I try and keep this in mind as I prepare class materials and presentations. I mentioned that the legal doctrine taught in Federal Indian Law is uniquely understood through the historical context. Teaching this historical context and looking at issues from multiple perspectives generates engaging, thought-provoking conversations. This in turn, encourages students to engage in conversations so that we have meaningful dialogues that build a deeper understanding of the class materials.

What do you enjoy most about teaching Lewis & Clark students?

The students! My favorite part of teaching is working with students and helping them learn about an area of law that is specialized yet touches on nearly all other fields of law. Indian law affects criminal law, contracts law, environmental law, and the list goes on. Students can really lean into the materials when they realize how Indian law intersects with other areas that they are passionate about.

What do you think makes L&C graduates stand out?

Compassion. I don’t think this is unique to just graduates, but our students have compassion. They want to use their skills and abilities to make the world a better place. The liberal arts focuses on critical thinking, but it is the students’ compassion that sets them apart from the rest and allows them to truly understand different perspectives. This is a value that stays with L&C graduates and I see it in the way that our alumni give back to their communities, carry themselves in their chosen careers, and engage with the school.

How do you stay connected to Lewis & Clark as an alumna?

Besides teaching Federal Indian Law, I am currently serving on the Lewis & Clark Board of Alumni where I am the chair of the Equity and Inclusion Committee. A wonderful team of us have worked on multiple initiatives through that committee,  including the formation of the Black Alumni Association and a Native American Alumni Association aimed at connecting alumni with students. I also enjoy supporting the Native Student Union and Native American Law Student Association in any way possible!

Environmental Studies Environmental Law Indian Law