Holly T. Bird grew up in Detroit, Michigan. She studied art, dance and theater at Interlochen Arts Academy, where she graduated in 1987. She attended Michigan State University, where she graduated with a B.A. in art and social science. While there, Holly worked for the Public Interest Research Group in Michigan, canvassing in support of environmental safety. In 1999, Holly graduated from DePaul University College of Law, where she served as the Native American Representative and President of the Latino Law Students Association.
After law school, Holly served as a Hearing Officer for Chicago Public Schools, presiding over matters concerning the educational welfare and discipline of children and teachers. She was appointed as a Guardian Ad Litem for the Cook County Public Guardian’s Office in 2000, where she represented over 230 children in the abuse/neglect system. From there, Holly went into private practice, representing clients in matters of family, criminal, traffic, civil, estate planning, real estate, and juvenile law. She also served as Vice-President of the Native American Foster Parents Association. Most notably, however, Holly founded and served as Vice-President, President, and President-Emeritus of the Illinois Native American Bar Association, and is credited for using her advocacy to remove offensive sports mascots from several Illinois schools. She has authored the publications: “Jumping Through Hoops: Traditional Healers and the Indian Health Care Act,” (1999) and “Making the Cross-Cultural Case; Educating the Judge about Race, Religion, and Ethnicity” (2004). Additionally, Holly has provided trainings on Native American Law and culture to the Illinois State Prosecutor’s Office, the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services, the Cook County Public Guardian’s Office, the Interfaith Council for Social Justice, and the State of Michigan Governor’s Task Force on Abuse/Neglect Children. Holly was featured in the Illinois Department of Labor’s March 2000 “Highlights of the Progress of Women and Minorities in the Workforce.”
In 2008, Holly was appointed as an Acting Chief Judge / Associate Judge for the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, where she served until 2011. In 2010, she was appointed to serve as an Associate Supreme Court Judge for the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Indians and continues in that capacity today. Holly maintains a private practice in Traverse City, concentrating in matters of Native American, cannabis, family, juvenile, criminal, civil, traffic, real estate, probate, employment and business law. Holly also served as the Civil Ground Coordinator for the Water Protectors Legal Collective, the leading legal service at the NoDAPL camp/protest in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. After Standing Rock camp closed, she continued to volunteer as an attorney and Board Member, and more recently as Co-Executive Director. She also founded and serves as the Executive Director for the MI Water Protectors Legal Task Force, a project of the National Lawyer’s Guild. She has been active throughout the years in organizing demonstrations and actions to bring attention to the water, social justice, and child safety.
Holly Bird is a certified Mediator, Peacemaker, Arbitrator, and serves as a pro-tem Appellate Judge for various Tribes. In 2013, Holly was awarded the prestigious American Arbitration Association’s 2013 Higginbotham Fellowship. Holly has served as a board member and mentor for the Grand Traverse Area Children’s Garden; and volunteer for the Leelanau Children’s Center and the Pathfinder School. Further, Holly was appointed to serve on the American Indian Law Committee of the Michigan State Bar and served on the State Supreme Court’s Court Rules Committee with respect to the Michigan Indian Family Preservation Act. She is a member of the American Indian Law Section and the Marijuana Law Section of the Michigan State Bar. For many years, Holly has acted as legal counsel for various music festivals around Northern Michigan, including Dunegrass/Dunesville, Rootstock, and Pond Jam. She also serves as the Michigan organizer for Indigenous Mutual Aid during the COVID-19 crisis.
Holly is descended from the San Felipe Pueblo/Yaqui/Apache tribes and the English Isles. She resides in Traverse City, Michigan with her husband, former Grand Traverse Band Tribal Councilor Percy Bird, and three children. She is a member of the Mindimooyenh Healing Society, a regional indigenous healing medicine circle. In what little spare time she has, she likes to travel, garden, play and listen to music, attend music festivals, smash colonialism, create art, renovate old campers, play with her family on the beach, engage in her Native American culture, and promote love.