First Native American judge appointed to Minnesota Court of Appeals

The president of the Minnesota American Indian Bar Association said the appointment will for the first time mean American Indians are represented at every level of the state's judiciary.

Wheelock, Sarah Headshot.jpg
Sarah Wheelock was appointed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, marking the first time a Native American judge has served on the court. Submitted Photo

ST. PAUL — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan on Friday, Nov. 12, announced the appointment of Sarah Wheelock to the state's Court of Appeals, marking the first time a Native American judge served on the court.

Wheelock currently works as legal counsel for the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community in Prior Lake and is set to fill the appellate court vacancy left by Judge Carol Hooten. Hooten is set to retire on Nov. 30.

Prior to representing the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, Wheelock was an adjunct professor at Mitchell Hamline College of Law and she served as an appellate judge for the White Earth Band of Chippewa. Wheelock is a member of the Meskwaki Nation and previously served as vice president of the Minnesota American Indian Bar Association. She received her Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctor degrees from the University of Iowa.

“In her time serving as legal counsel for the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and tribes across the nation, Ms. Wheelock has repeatedly shown that she is a dedicated public servant committed to advancing the common good," Walz said in a news release. "She is well prepared to join the Court of Appeals.”

Casey Matthiesen, president of the Minnesota American Indian Bar Association, said Wheelock's appointment was historic and marked the first time that American Indians were represented at every level of Minnesota's judiciary.


Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
What To Read Next
The vote (with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans against) came after 15 hours of debate at the Capitol
Nonprofit hospitals are required to provide free or discounted care, also known as charity care; yet eligibility and application requirements vary across hospitals. Could you qualify? We found out.
DFL lawmakers fast-tracked abortion protections through the Capitol to get a bill to the governor’s desk. Gov. Tim Walz said signing the protections into law is a top priority.
The course runs 135 miles along a snowmobile trail from International Falls south to Tower. Competitors can run, ski or bike, and those who finish can take two days.