Mackenzie A. Dilbeck
The University of Oklahoma College of Law will host the American Indian Law Review’s annual Indigenous Peoples, Law, and Power Symposium Friday, April 15. This year’s theme is the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The Symposium is co-sponsored in partnership with the University of Oklahoma’s College of Arts and Sciences’s Native American Studies Department. The event will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the Dick Bell Courtroom in Andrew M. Coats Hall.
Experts in the field of Native American child welfare will present talks throughout the day, along with two keynote addresses. The speakers and their topics include:
- Kathryn Fort, staff attorney for the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University College of Law: “Indian Child Welfare Act: Guidelines and New Challenges”
- Victoria Sweet, senior policy analyst for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges: “Implementing ICWA: Promoting Stronger ties Between State and Tribal Courts”.
- Chrissi Nimmo, senior assistant attorney general for the Cherokee Nation: “Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl: A Personal Perspective”
- Jodi Gillette, policy advisor at Sonoksy Firm and former special assistant to the President for Native American Affairs, White House Domestic Policy Council: Morning Keynote Address
- Judge Michael C. Smith, district court judge for the Sac and Fox Nation: “ICWA: A Tribal Judge’s Perspective”
- Sue Settles, former chief of the Human Services Division for the Bureau of Indian Affairs: “A Social Worker Perspective on ICWA”
- C. Steven Hager, director of litigation for Oklahoma Indian Legal Services:“The Indian Child Welfare Act: A Continuing Legal Struggle,” Afternoon Keynote Address
“This year’s Indigenous Peoples, Law, and Power Symposium comes at a time when its theme – the Indian Child Welfare Act – is garnering much attention throughout the country,” said OU College of Law Dean Joseph Harroz Jr. “The issue is a sensitive one, and we’re pleased to have the partnership of OU’s College of Arts and Sciences’s Native American Studies Department as we host the country’s leading voices on the intricacies and nuances of the Indian Child Welfare Act. Focusing the Symposium on this timely topic affords our students the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of nationwide current events.”
In December 2015, the OU Board of Regents unaminously voted to elevate Native American Studies from a program to department status at the request of OU President David L. Boren. Since 1994, OU’s Native American Studies focus has attracted and served students of diverse backgrounds who are committed to using distinctly Native American perspectives to place the sovereignty of Native nations and the cultures of Native peoples at the center of academic study. In addition to a graduate certificate in American Indian Social Work, the Department offers bachelor’s, master’s, and joint M.A./J.D. degrees.
“This is our fifth year to co-host this special event,” said Native American Studies Department Chair, Dr. Amanda Cobb-Greetham. “Our partnership grows out of our joint M.A./J.D. program, which makes all of our students uniquely competitive. This year’s Symposium topic is of critical importance to Native nations and communities. The subject matter is close to our hearts and impacts the future of our citizenry.”
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What led you to OU Law? I have wanted to go to law school since I was a teenager. I was active in speech contests and enjoyed making oral presentations. When I was in high school, I would go downtown and watch some of the trials at the courthouse, so, I got acquainted with the courtroom rather early. I obtained a Navy scholarship to go to OU. I was a regular Navy midshipman then I served three years in the far east before coming back to law school. I wanted to attend law school and came back to OU.