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Patrice Kunesh - Deputy Under Secretary, Rural Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Patrice Kunesh
Career Highlights 
  • Deputy Under Secretary of Rural Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Deputy Solicitor for Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior
  • Professor, University of South Dakota School of Law
  • Director, Institute of American Indian Studies, University of South Dakota School of Law
  • In-house counsel to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe of Connecticut
  • Skadden Public Interest Fellow, Staff Attorney, Native American Rights Fund

On May 22, 2013, Patrice H. Kunesh began her tenure at USDA as the Deputy Under Secretary of Rural Development. Among Patrice’s responsibilities are overseeing Operations & Management and the Office of Civil Rights and working with the State Directors.

Prior to joining USDA, Patrice, of Standing Rock Lakota descent, served as the Deputy Solicitor for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior, where she supervised the work of the Solicitor’s Office on a breadth of matters concerning American Indian tribes and individual Indians, Indian lands, and Indian gaming. Before joining DOI, Patrice was a member of the faculty of the University of South Dakota School of Law where she taught in the areas of Federal Indian Law, Legislation, Property Law, and Children & the Law, and also directed the University’s Institute of American Indian Studies.

Patrice began her legal career at the Native American Rights Fund as a Skadden Public Interest Fellow and then as a Staff Attorney, where she litigated cases involving tribal sovereignty and natural resources and provided legal and policy advice to tribes on a wide variety of Indian law and tribal governance issues. In 1995, she became in-house counsel to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe of Connecticut, where she continued her legal and policy work in the areas of tribal law and governance and economic development.

Patrice received a Master of Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a law degree from the University of Colorado School of Law, where she was an editor of the Colorado Law Review.