Kunesh, of Standing Rock Sioux Hunkpapa Lakota descent, teaches in the areas of Indian law, Children & the Law, Legislation and Property at the USD School of Law. She has extensive experience in representing tribes throughout the country, including work at the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) in Colorado where she represented American Indian tribal governments in protecting the welfare of Indian children. As a staff attorney with NARF, Kunesh also represented tribes in protecting tribal resources, cultural rights, and drafted tribal laws and constitutions. In addition, Kunesh was in-house counsel for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which is located in southeastern Connecticut. While with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, she was involved in the establishment of the tribe's judicial system and codification of its laws.
"Indian education is a high priority area in the University and Law School strategic plans," noted Barry R. Vickrey, dean of the USD School of Law. "Strong leadership of both the department and the institute will help bring more American Indian students to this campus. For those who might be interested in pursuing legal education, Professor Kunesh will be in an excellent position to inform them about our strong program."
Kunesh has authored articles and travels the nation lecturing about the state of Indian child welfare as well as tribal and federal Indian law. She is also a contributing author to the "Encyclopedia of United States – American Indian Policy, Relations, and Law" and has had several book reviews published in "Great Plains Quarterly," "Law and History Review," and "Journal of American Ethnic History." A graduate of Colorado State University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree, Kunesh received her J.D. from the University of Colorado.
"Professor Kunesh combines vast experience in Indian culture, with impressive legal credentials and a determination to advance the research mission of the Institute," added Matthew Moen, USD's acting provost and vice president for academic affairs.
The Institute of American Indian Studies was created by the South Dakota Legislature in 1955 to provide persons of Indian descent with educational opportunities both on and off the campus of the University of South Dakota, and to provide opportunities to research and study the history, culture and language of the Indians of North America and South Dakota. In 2005, The U created the Department of American Indian Studies within the College of Arts & Sciences to enhance the educational program for Indian students. As director, Kunesh will be responsible for establishing a research agenda for the institute focusing on knowledge expansion along with opportunities to enhance the welfare of American Indian people by reaching out to American Indian nations.
In addition to her new duties with the Institute of American Indian Studies, Kunesh will maintain a typical course load while as a professor at the School of Law.