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Berkeley Law student works to rewrite her tribe’s constitution

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Third year Berkeley Law student Gabrielle Cirelli helps her tribe, the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake in Northern California, as she aids in rewriting the tribe's constitution


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MAY 24, 2023

In her own words, Gabrielle Cirelli was “born and raised a Golden Bear.” Growing up in the East Bay, she frequented tailgates and football games as the child of two UC Berkeley alumni.

Although she attended UCLA for her undergraduate degree, Cirelli quickly relocated back to the Bay post-grad where she soon found herself applying to Berkeley Law and beginning the next chapter of her life at the campus she holds so close to her heart.

Now approaching her third year at Berkeley Law, Cirelli has spent her time on campus giving back to both the local community and her tribe, the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake in Northern California, as she helps to rewrite its constitution using her background at the law school.

“If there’s a clause in there about something that doesn’t exist anymore, we need to update it,” Cirelli said. “We’ve grown (and the tribe is) much bigger than we were in years past, so my committee, the constitutional review committee, or CRC, goes through and takes each section of the constitution and basically rewrite the ones that need it.”

Cirelli and the other members of the committee assess the bylaws and sections of the constitution to determine whether the new changes are fair and beneficial to the tribe. As technological and societal advancements alter existing landscapes, Cirelli said her team works to ensure the updated constitution accounts for these differences moving forward.

Cirelli comes from a long line of influential and progressive tribal members; her great-great grandfather once held the position of tribal leader, according to Teresa Meek, a fellow tribal member and Cirelli’s second cousin.

“Being an elder of the tribe, it’s always really wonderful to see the younger generation getting involved and showing interest, and (Cirelli) most definitely did that right from the get-go,” Meek said. “She’s always one of the first ones to volunteer.”

The constitutional review process will likely take multiple years to complete, according to Cirelli, who also noted the difficulties in pinpointing an exact end date due to many moving parts. She added that the CRC is dedicated to educating the members and informing them before moving forward with any changes.

Like any other review board, the team is no stranger to minor conflicts cropping up, Cirelli noted, as generational differences can sometimes lead to disagreements and stagnation.

However, Cirelli said she is happy to see discourse and even pushback, as it signifies the team’s dedication to making things right.

“It’s opened up my eyes to a lot of different opinions and things I had never thought about,” Cirelli said. “The older generation, or even the generation younger than me, obviously thinks differently. Sitting down and talking with them (and) seeing why they want things done a certain way has opened my eyes to new perspectives.”

Contact Natasha Kaye at 


MAY 24, 2023