Law School Students of the Year: Al Metoxen, Mitchell-Hamline

Al Metoxen was to have graduated from Mitchell Hamline School of Law in January 2020. He died unexpectedly in October 2019 at age 46.

He is among our Law School Students of the Year. 

“I can think of no one more deserving for this award,” said Mitchell Hamline’s dean of students, Lynn Lemoine. “What an amazing spirit.”

A member of the Oneida tribe of Wisconsin, Metoxen studied Indian law at Mitchell Hamline and planned to work for a tribe after graduation. After his death, the Minnesota American Indian Bar Association named a scholarship in his honor.

Metoxen was involved with several volunteer projects while he was in law school, including organizing volunteers for First Nations Kitchens in Minneapolis and collecting toys for the American Indian Family Center. A retired police officer, he did much to encourage a spirit of giving and volunteerism on campus.

After his death, there was a gathering on campus where his fellow students told stories about his humor, encouragement, generosity and friendship.

The best way to understand Metoxen spirt is through his own words, captured in emails he sent over the past year or so to his fellow students, as he was nearing the end of his studies.

“Volunteering is community. And its good comes back to you,” he said in signing off an email encouraging his fellow students to volunteer at First Nations Kitchens. “I will keep this short: when you ‘give’ it is a good thing for you. Good is what this is all about. It is why we are here.”

“I thought I would tell you why volunteering is so important to me. It is because of my father,” Al shared with his friends. “I look back at all those Sundays as a little native kid on the rez. Mad at my dad for waking me up so early. I remember asking my dad, “why do we make so much breakfast at church and give it away if they have no money?” He would say to me, “for some people Al its all they got.” He still teaches me so much.”

Thanking his fellow students for volunteering:

“This is four decades of volunteering talking here, (because I vividly remember pushing the chair up to the till, climbing up on it, and collecting the money at my church) you will look back at this and remember it fondly. My most cherished memories were watching my mom and dad argue over how to cook the scrambled eggs and who is going to wash to dishes after church breakfast (big thanks to Jacqueline and Cara). Volunteering at First Nations Kitchen was a tremendous success yesterday. It would not have been possible without your contributions.”

Encouraging his friends to make ornaments and drop off toys for native children in foster care:

“Those ornaments would represent native children in foster care that might be in need of a gift during this upcoming holiday season … I can tell you giving a gift to a child in foster-care can do more than just their life. But, yours too. Please come.”