Raquel Montoya-Lewis (MSW ’96), the first Native American justice to serve on the Washington State Supreme Court and the second Native American to ever serve on any state’s supreme court, will give the keynote address at the University of Washington’s School of Social Work’s graduation celebration, to be held Thursday, June 8, from 7-9 p.m. at the Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
Montoya-Lewis’ presentation, “Descendant Daughters,” will revolve around the impact that generational trauma and survival can have on the work of social justice advocates, and the way their stories can influence others to commit to do justice in a chaotic world.
Montoya-Lewis received a BA from the University of New Mexico in 1992, a law degree from the UW School of Law in 1995, and an MSW degree from the UW School of Social Work in 1996. A passionate advocate for juvenile justice reform, tribal courts and communities, and equity, over the years she has been a Supreme Court justice, Superior Court judge, tribal court judge, practicing attorney and associate professor.
Montoya-Lewis was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee to the Washington State Supreme Court in 2019. Before that, she had served for five years as a Superior Court judge for Whatcom County where she heard felony criminal and civil trials and presided over the Whatcom County Therapeutic Drug Court. Before working with the state courts, she served for 20 years as a tribal court judge for many tribes and was chief judge for the Lummi, Nooksack and Upper Skagit tribes. Her work as a tribal court judge and as a citizen of the Pueblo of Isleta has helped inform her understanding of issues affecting Native Americans and Indigenous people in Washington state.
In addition to her judicial work, Montoya-Lewis was also a tenured associate professor at Western Washington University’s Fairhaven College, where she taught and conducted research on issues ranging from juvenile justice to cultural identity. She continues to use her teaching skills as a jurist, where she has taught social workers, advocates, judges and lawyers about such topics as implicit bias, the Indian Child Welfare Act and best practices in child welfare and domestic violence cases.
Committed to the welfare of children and youth, Montoya-Lewis has received numerous awards for her support of juvenile justice reform. In 2021, she received the Betty Blinns Fletcher Leadership and Justice Award from the Mother Attorneys Mentoring Association of Seattle, and in 2020 she was awarded the American Board of Tribal Attorney’s Judge of the Year award from its Washington chapter. In 2018, the Brigid Collins Family Support Center recognized her with the Children’s Advocacy Center Community Leadership Award, and in 2015, she received the Dean’s Leadership Award from the UW School of Law.
Montoya-Lewis was born in Spain where her father was stationed with the U. S. Air Force. She grew up on U. S. Air Force bases around the U. S. and Europe. She graduated from high school and attended college in New Mexico, and is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Isleta and a descendant of the Pueblo of Laguna, two federally recognized tribes in New Mexico. She is of Jewish descent on her mother’s side.