Sovereignty and Identity Symposium March 1 at OU College of Law

February 24, 2012 | By Jeff Riles and Mary Huckabee, J.D. Class of 2012

On March 1, Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians and Lieutenant Governor of the Chickasaw Nation, will speak to a group of faculty, students, and special guests at an invite-only dinner celebrating the 2012 Sovereignty & Identity Symposium. Lt. Governor Keel will deliver thoughts from the State of Indian Nations address he gave following President Obama’s State of the Union address in January.

The American Indian Law Review, the Student Bar Association, and the Native American Studies Program are jointly hosting this Sovereignty & Identity Symposium.  The synergy of these three organizations promises to bring together the nation’s leading minds on topics of Native American culture and law as well as Indigenous issues in Oklahoma, America, and the world.

The American Indian Law Review and Student Bar Association have partnered with the Native American Studies Program to bring an interdisciplinary approach to the discussion of tribal membership and sovereignty. Morning sessions of the Symposium will focus on how the study of Native American culture, citizenship, and history can promote sovereignty.

The afternoon Symposium speakers will discuss and consider legal issues related to tribal membership criteria, including a fresh analysis of the Cherokee Freedmen issue. In addition to speakers who will discuss the historical context of the controversy and the current legal issues involved, John Gomez, President of the American Indian Rights and Resources Organization and an advocate for those removed from the rolls of California tribes, will provide a broader perspective on the effects of disenrollment. 

There will be 20 different and diverse speakers presenting at the Symposium over the course of the day. Todd Hembree, the newly appointed Cherokee Nation Attorney General, will talk about the Cherokee’s position regarding the Freedman, while OU Law alum and distinguished attorney John Velie will share the Freedmen’s position. Professor Matthew Fletcher, founder of the Turtle Talk Blog and professor of law at Michigan State University, and Assistant US Attorney Trent Shores will speak in depth to the jurisdictional issues associated with tribal membership. Oklahoma Representative Seneca Scott will serve as the lunch keynote speaker, offering his perspective as a Native member in the state legislature. And of course, OU Law’s own nationally recognized professors Lindsay Robertson and Taiawagi Helton will also participate.

For more information, the full agenda is available at: All members of the OU Law community are invited to the Symposium and can attend for free! We hope to see you there!

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