For two-time Creighton graduate John Peebles, a relationship forged through a fast-pitch softball game led to a career in the evolving field of American Indian tribal law and a founding partnership in a multistate law firm.
Fredericks Peebles and Morgan, LLP, exclusively represents federally recognized American Indian tribes, organizations and individuals. The firm has more than 35 partners, associates and of-counsels in eight locations across the U.S.
Peebles, 66, was born in Omaha into a family of Creighton alumni. His father was a Creighton-trained dentist, and his mother was a nursing graduate.
He had varied interests as an undergraduate student, and briefly focused on engineering and sciences before completing an undergraduate psychology degree. But an interest in law led Peebles to continue his education at Creighton School of Law.
After his graduation, Peebles taught at the University of Nebraska Omaha’s business college before taking a job at an Omaha-based law firm, where he focused on antitrust laws.
“That really didn’t do it for me,” Peebles says of the work.
So he moved to be near his family in small-town northeastern Nebraska in the early 1980s. It’s there that he met members of the Santee Sioux tribe during a fast-pitch softball tournament.
“They needed a center fielder,” Peebles says. “I played with them for a few years after that, and got to know the tribe’s leaders.”
Through this relationship, Peebles learned that the tribe needed legal help in regard to the school system, housing and other issues on the reservation near the South Dakota border.
He enjoyed the work, calling it “challenging and rewarding,” and took up an opportunity to represent the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska on a river morphology case. Peebles successfully litigated the major case for the tribe in the mid-80s. During this time, he also moved to Omaha and started his own firm.
After that case was resolved, Peebles says, the area of American Indian law began to see rapid growth and diversification, including the rise of Indian gaming cases. Today, the complex field includes natural resources, environmental issues, cultural preservation, civil rights and economic development.
In 2001, Peebles and his wife moved to Sacramento, California, with their two children to open a law office on the West Coast.
In 2007, the office merged with the Colorado-based firm founded by Thomas Fredericks. Today, the firm has offices in six states and Washington, D.C. The headquarters are in Omaha.
Peebles says he enjoys the field because it’s constantly evolving.
“It’s certainly a challenge,” he says. “I’ve learned a lot. And you run into different issues every day.”
When not working or spending time with his family, Peebles says he enjoys mountain biking. He travels to Nebraska a few times a year for business and likes to get back to Creighton when he can. Peebles says he also keeps in touch with his former law school classmates.
“I enjoyed my time at Creighton law. I thought I was very well-prepared,” he says.