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Haskell alumnus becomes first graduate of a tribal university to attend Harvard Law School

College wasn’t on Connor Veneski’s radar as a high school student. Instead, he was leaning toward a future in welding or in the military.

Connor Veneski, a 2017 graduate of Haskell Indian Nations University, Lawrence, stands in a park in Yuma, Arizona, on Dec. 26, 2018. Veneski is forging a path as the first student admitted to Harvard Law School from a tribal university.

College wasn’t on Connor Veneski’s radar as a high school student. Instead, he was leaning toward a future in welding or in the military.

But not only did college become a reality for Veneski, he’s also now a bit of a trailblazer. Veneski, a 2017 graduate of Haskell Indian Nations University, just finished his first semester at Harvard Law School. And while it’s not unusual for Haskell graduates to attend law school, Veneski is the first student admitted to Harvard Law not only from Haskell, but from any tribal university in America.

He described his first semester as “long and really hard.” Plus, he faced culture shock as one of the 500 students in the Harvard Law School Class of 2021.

He found himself surrounded by extremely talented classmates — including people who attended Oxford and Cambridge universities for their undergraduate studies — as well as privileged ones.

“I thought people were looking at me in my Carhartts and boots,” Veneski said.

However, he said, those intimidating circumstances only encouraged him to work harder.

Knowing he is the first Native American from a tribal college in the class is a “pretty wild feeling,” Veneski said.

Currently, 2 percent of enrolled students at Harvard are Native American, according to the Harvard Gazette. Veneski and another student, Chance Fletcher, a member of the Cherokee Nation, are the only two Native Americans in the law school class of 2021. Fletcher’s undergraduate degree is from Princeton

Mary Shultz