Jessica (Kramer) Ryan named to Brainerd Public Schools 2021 Distinguished Achievement Hall of Fame
Elsa (Hasch) Garrison, Jessica (Kramer) Ryan, Mark Ness and Elizabeth “Betty” (Nolan) McGowan were recognized for their accomplishments after graduating from Brainerd High School — or Washington High School for McGowan.
The class of 1990 was well-represented Thursday, with graduate Jessica (Kramer) Ryan making her way into the Hall of Fame. As the first Native American inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame, it was fitting to also be in the first class bestowed with the honor in the new Gichi-ziibi Center for the Arts, so named to honor the area’s American Indian culture.
While at Hamline University, earning her bachelor’s in women’s studies and then her law degree, Ryan was a founding member of the Native American Law Students Association and a member of several other law organizations.
Ryan clerked for Robert Blaeser, a Hennepin County District Court judge and the first Native American district judge in the metro area. She assisted Blaeser and others in creating an Indian Child Welfare Act Court to make sure cases involving Native American families were heard by those who understood their cultural ways. She also helped develop the Hennepin County Indian Child Welfare Act Guardian ad Litem panel and served on several Minnesota Supreme Court committees.
Eventually opening her own law practice, Ryan committed to working closely with Native American tribes and families and also served several tribal courts as a tribal court judge, chief judge of the Lower Sioux Community and as an associate judge of the White Earth Nation Appellate Court.
Ryan now serves on the Tribal Council of the Brothertown Indian Nation and volunteers as a Water Walker for Lake Winnebago, where her tribe is located.