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Announcing our New Executive Director, Natali Segovia

For Immediate Release

October 6, 2023

Natali in her traditional homelands of Perú, sacred mountain Apu Salkantay in the background.
Natali in her traditional homelands of Perú, sacred mountain Apu Salkantay in the background.

The Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Natali Segovia (Quechua) has been named Executive Director of Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC). Natali has accepted the challenge and has stepped into this new role to guide the organization in doing critical legal and advocacy work for the Earth, Water, and future generations.

Since joining staff in 2020, Natali has served as Legal Director and Staff Attorney and her extensive past experience in areas of Federal Indian law, criminal defense, civil litigation, and human rights, makes her an exceptional fit for the role of Executive Director at WPLC. Natali is nationally recognized for her work on Indigenous Peoples and international human rights, and has practiced in tribal, state, and federal courts around the country. As a litigator and advocate, Natali’s current work focuses on the protection of the Earth and the rights of Indigenous Peoples and Original Nations affected by forced displacement, desecration of sacred lands, and human rights violations as a result of extractive industry and mass development projects.

In the past three years at WPLC, Natali has worked on a wide range of matters ranging from protecting sacred and cultural sites (Mauna Kea, Peehee Mu’huh, San Francisco Peaks, He Sapa) through public comments and regulatory proceedings, as well as legal advocacy in the form of amicus briefs in circuit courts around the nation, community legal education, defense work for individuals charged in connection with activism or facing state repression, representation and advocacy for religious freedoms of incarcerated Indigenous relatives, and impact litigation. Some representative work includes House v. National Park Service, a federal civil rights case against the National Park Service for use of excessive force against a Dine relative, to protect access to sacred sites for Indigenous Peoples under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. She has also represented human rights defender and environmental justice attorney, Steven Donziger, who won a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron for contamination of vital water sources for Indigenous Peoples in Ecuador’s Amazon, as part of his appellate team and continues to represent him in the international fora before the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. In her spare time, Natali loves engaging with law students and mentoring the next generation of lawyers intent on changing the fabric of the law. As such, she lectures frequently and teaches at law schools as adjunct faculty including currently “Indigenous Peoples and Colonial Law” at City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law. In 2022-2023, she was named the Fall Givelber Distinguished Public Interest Lecturer at Northeastern University School of Law, which invites distinguished public service practitioners to teach a course of their creation, where Natali developed and taught “In Defense of the Sacred: Human Rights, Earth Justice, and the Law.”

Over the past 15 years, Natali’s international work has focused on addressing human rights violations as a result of extractive industry and mass development projects in rural, “unseen” areas in countries including Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil. Natali holds a law degree from Arizona State University with a concentration in International Law and Federal Indian Law, in addition to dual undergraduate degrees in Latin American Studies and Political Science from Columbia University. She has chaired multiple committees of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) including the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Committee, the NLG International Committee (steering committee), and the NLG Task Force on the Americas. We are confident that under Natali’s leadership, the organization’s success and impact in achieving its mission and vision will continue to flourish.

Natali recently reflected on why she does this work: “I came to the law because it was inevitable. It is inevitable to not fight and to not stand in the face of injustice. When injustices and human rights violations are the rule, more than the exception, to seek redress and shed light on the invisible, is a natural and necessary course of action. The commitment to this work however, comes not only from the need to address injustices, but also stems from a place of deep love for the Earth, for our relatives, for those who have come before me and those generations still to come.”

In discussing her appointment as Executive Director, she said: “I am honored to be given this opportunity to serve our communities across Turtle Island and the world. Some attorneys can approach the legal work they do as a 9-5 job. At the end of the day, they can close their computers and step away from it all. This is not just a job to me - it is a calling and a responsibility. I know that for me and for all staff at WPLC, the work we do is deeply personal to each of us, our communities, and our relatives. We carry the knowledge and responsibility of that on a daily basis, around the clock, and in our dreams. We know to whom we are accountable. It is this commitment that distinguishes WPLC, has kept WPLC alive, and will continue to fuel our work in time yet to come.”

On behalf of the Board of Directors, Carolina Martin Ramos expressed the Board’s excitement regarding Natali’s position as Executive Director saying, "We believe that Natali will work to develop and manifest our shared vision in line with the WPLC mission and as imagined by that first prayer at Standing Rock. Under Natali's leadership, we are certain WPLC’s critical work will continue.”

Communications and Development Coordinator, Nizhoni Begay, echoed the sentiment and expressed staff happiness about this new chapter saying, “Natali has been an incredible mentor and leader of our organization. Even before her official title, her work as Legal Director has expanded our vision and always been aimed to do this work in a good way. I am excited for this new structure and am thankful to have Natali’s guidance while doing this important work.”

According to the American Bar Association, less than one-half of 1 percent of all lawyers (0.4%) are Native American, while the U.S. population is 1.3% Native American. Our Indigenous-led organization is uniquely positioned to provide legal support and advocacy for Indigenous Peoples with a critical understanding of what it means to be Indigenous and live in relation with the Earth. There is no other legal organization doing work on frontlines in direct relationship with grassroots movements that are Indigenous-led and working nationwide and internationally.

We begin a new chapter where we will continue growing, strategizing, and strengthening WPLC to be a resilient organization positioned to tackle the pressing issues of our time including protection of the Earth from climate disruption using innovative, critical, and proactive legal strategies. We thank you all for your continued support and partnership as we welcome Natali into her new role. Mni Wiconi, Water Is Life.

There is a quote Natali likes to bring to memory from Indigenous Water Protector, Berta Cáceres: “Lo vamos a lograr, me lo dijo el río.” We will succeed. The river told me so.

Young Natali in NYC, dressed in traditional Andean attire
Young Natali in NYC, dressed in traditional Andean attire

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