Chris Stearns, Navajo, sought a career in Indian law as a way to help protect the legal and human rights of Native Americans. His practice focuses on the areas of campaign and elections law, political advocacy, government relations, self-governance, and energy law.
After starting his career with Hobbs Straus, he left the firm to serve as Deputy Counsel for the U.S. House Subcommittee on Native American Affairs under Chairman Bill Richardson. He later served four years as Democratic Counsel for the Committee on Natural Resources under Chairman George Miller where he oversaw national legislation on tribal self-governance, health care, federal recognition, and gaming. In 1998, he was appointed by President Bill Clinton as the first-ever Director of Indian Affairs for the U.S. Department of Energy where he helped Energy Secretary Bill Richards craft Indian energy policy and build tribal relations.
Chris is currently in his second term as Chairman of the Washington State Gambling Commission, the second oldest gambling regulatory agency in the nation. He was first appointed to the Commission by Governor Jay Inslee in 2013. In the past two years, the Commission has successfully renegotiated numerous tribal-state gaming compacts, including a major market-based class III machine increase. The Commission has been an international leader in the criminal investigation of unlawful internet gaming, and has taken on leading roles in policies surrounding fantasy sports, internet poker, and skill-based gaming.
In 2000, Chris was selected to serve as the North Dakota State Presidential Campaign Director for Vice President Al Gore. He was the first-ever Native American appointed to such a senior position within a presidential campaign. Chris returned to Hobbs Straus in 2001. Chris later spent four years as the political advisor to the President of the National Congress of American Indians.
Chris has also worked on Senator John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign in New Mexico, on Governor Bill Richardson’s 2002 campaign in New Mexico, and on President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaigns in Washington State.
Chris is an active member of Seattle’s Native American and social justice communities. Chris is the President of the Board of Directors of the Seattle Indian Health Board. He also served two terms as Chairman of the City of Seattle’s Human Rights Commission where he led efforts on police accountability, on jobs assistance legislation for people with criminal records, and he also testified before the United Nations on indigenous rights. Chris helped establish Native Vote Washington, a nonpartisan, nonprofit corporation whose purpose is to increase Native American participation in elections.
Cornell Law School, J.D., 1989
Williams College, B.A. (with honors), 1986
The Lawrenceville School, 1982
District of Columbia