My name is Jerry Ford. I grew up
a poor white kid on the south end of
Beacon Hill in Seattle. I attended the
University of Washington, graduating in 1976 with a B.A. in political science. I moved to Tacoma in the fall of
1978 and I received my law degree from
the University of Puget Sound in 1981.
I have practiced for the last 30 years
in Tacoma as a Pierce County deputy
prosecuting attorney. I currently work
in the Family Support Division, where I
focus on the modification of child support orders and troubleshooting tribal
child support issues. In 2009, I was selected to serve as an appellate judge for
the Native Intertribal Court System and
have heard cases of various tribes in
Western Washington. I have been married for 36 years and have two grown
children; and I have a bossy cat and a
mission schools run by the Catholic Church. I still couldn’t
figure out which tribe I belonged to and eventually gave in
to frustration and quit looking.
;In 2003, while working in the Family Support Division of my office, I
learned the Puyallup Tribe had a Child Support Program. I was
curious, made contact, and set out to learn everything I could
about tribal child support and tribal courts in general. I attended an Indian Court Seminar in Las Vegas. At the seminar, I met
an instructor who looked like he could be my brother and with
a last name that sounded familiar. I asked him what tribe he
belonged to and he told me it was the Little Shell Chippewa
Tribe of Montana. He suggested I look them up. Of course,
it went to the back of my mind and I simply forgot the conversation. Several weeks later, I awoke in the middle of the
night and remembered the conversation. I got up, went to the
computer and found the tribe. I discovered the original list of
tribal members and looked through it. I was in tears as I found
my father, aunt and uncle, and both grandparents. No wonder
my father never had luck with the Blackfeet; he was looking
at the wrong tribe. The next day I sent applications for enrollment for myself and my two children. I can say that this was a
true turning point in my life. I realized that I belonged to two
different worlds in life and in my practice.
;The two greatest accomplishments in my legal practice have been the
working relationship I have established with the Indian
Child Support community and becoming an appellate
judge for the Native Intertribal Court System. Over the
last 10 years, I have learned about Indian culture, enabling
me to advocate for fair orders for tribal children. Dealing
with issues confronting tribal members in state court and
advocating for native cases to be heard in tribal court has
become a daily activity for me. I hope that my efforts aid
in the understanding by others of the differences, as well
as the commonalities, of these two
systems in our society. As a tribal
judge, I am humbled by the responsibility I hold to know the law of
each sovereign nation and to be
sensitive to the unique culture of
each tribe. I enjoy the work and the
opportunity to grow both as a lawyer and a tribal member.
;My long-term goals: I am hoping to
someday finish my legal career as a
full-time tribal judge. Being fortunate to break many of the native ste-reotypical barriers, I want to give
back to tribal communities. I have
a great desire to help the tribes do
justice to all who come into court.
When it is all said and done, I want
to have made a difference.
;Something I’d do over again would be
to be more attentive when I sat with
my father and grandmother; those
tribal oral histories have disappeared. They were not edu-
cated people, but had so much to offer that I simply ignored.
I would like to learn the Chippewa language, which was lost
two generations ago in my family. My tribal journeys have
given me a spiritual connection with the ones that came be-
fore me; learning the language would honor them.
;Those that I admire the most in my personal life are my children. My
daughter Stephanie traveled the world as a Fulbright scholar
and is filled with a great sense of humanity. Her gritty determination and dedication to living her life with integrity and
adherence to her beliefs has given me great inspiration. My
son Peter was one of the first American Indian Studies Program graduates at the University of Washington. He is a man
who gives more then he takes. He has the desire to help others
and the heart and imagination so lacking in this world today.
I look up to him in our evolved relationship as adult peers and
I always take his advice seriously, as it is well thought out.
;I have been caught taking a day off in the middle of the week.
I live in Tacoma, a community that is so much more than the
tide flats seen from I- 5. If I were to take the day off, I would
spend it with my wife, Sue, the love of my life for the past 40
years. There is no greater pleasure than walking along Rus-ton Way, grabbing a beer at Cheney Stadium, or riding bikes
home after a hotdog at the Red Hot. Then I come back from
my daydream by the cat meowing for me to open the door for
her and my wife telling me where to place the next bucket of
Tagro in her garden!
;I like to ride my bike, read military books, and spend time
with family and friends. One adventure I enjoyed recently
was in Montana, where I camped and argued military strategy at the Little Bighorn for three days with a good friend.
Best part was I didn’t feel guilty because my wife said that trip would
have been worse than pulling out
toenails. Instead, she got good
quality sewing and gardening time
without my interruptions. We do
enjoy being together at our vacation
home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Walking around town looking for
filming locations of Breaking Bad is
a current favorite activity.
I am a rabid sports fan. My fall weekends are filled with Seahawks and
Huskies football. My wife and I travelled in 2006 to Ford Stadium in
Detroit to support Seattle in Super
Bowl;XL!;I;also;enjoy;watching;base-ball, be it the Tacoma Rainiers or my
son pitching in his adult league. I
sometimes think it would be fun to
sport an Isotope jacket and usher at
the Albuquerque Minor League stadium, watching baseball and telling
outlandish stories to spectators. NWL