Norman - The University of Oklahoma College of Law, OU Native American Studies Program, American Indian Law Review, and the Native American Law Student Association hosted the 4th Annual AILR Symposium, “Indigenous Women, Law, and Power,” Thursday, March 5th. This is the third largest Native American Law symposium in the Nation. This year’s event featured nationally renowned Indigenous women covering issues from violence to justice and how they affect American Indian women.
The morning session featured Kimberly Teehee, a member of the Cherokee Nation, as the keynote speaker. Teehee is the Vice-President of Special Projects for Cherokee Nation Businesses. She served as the Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs, White House Domestic Policy Council from 2009 to 2012. Starting in January 1998, Teehee was a Senior Advisor to the House of Representatives Native American Caucus Co-Chair, Congressman Dale Kildee (D-MI). She has also served as the Director of Native American Outreach for the Presidential Inaugural Committee for President Clinton’s second Inauguration. Prior to that, Teehee was the Deputy Director of Native American Outreach at the Democratic National Committee. She has also held various positions with the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, including serving as a Law Clerk in the Division of Law and Justice.
The afternoon’s keynote speaker was Suzan Shown Harjo, a 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient. This is the highest civilian honor one can receive. Dr. Harjo, who is Cheyenne & Hodulgee Muscogee, is the president of The Morning Star Institute, a national Native rights organization. She continues her longtime advocacy against sports teams’ stereotyping of Native Americans. By 2013, two-thirds of American teams with “Indian” mascots had changed them, due in large part to these public campaigns. She has also helped Native Peoples recover more than one million acres of land. While living in New York City and working in broadcasting and theater, she co-produced the first Indian news show in the nation for WBAI-FM radio. She then moved to Washington, DC in 1974 to work on national policy issues. She served as congressional liaison for Indian affairs in President Jimmy Carter’s administration, a legislative liaison for the Native American Rights Fund and executive director of the National Congress of American Indians.
“OU Law has an extensive history as an international leader in Native American Law. As part of that, we are privileged to host one of the largest symposia in the nation which focuses on current issues facing Native American peoples. We are honored to have these nationally renowned women, who have had such a significant impact on issues facing Indigenous women, present at this year’s event,” said Dean Joe Harroz.
Other speakers included Mary Daniel, Legal Counsel, Integris Health; Stephanie Hudson, Senior Staff Attorney, Oklahoma Indian Legal Services; Andrea Smith, Associate Professor, University of California at Riverside; Dawn Stover, Director, Native Alliance Against Violence; Kelly Stoner, District Court Judge, Seminole Nation of Oklahoma; Barbara Smith, Supreme Court Justice, Chickasaw Nation; and Sherry Todd, Associate Judge, Chickasaw Nation.
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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.
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What led you to OU Law? OU Law has been part of my family since the 1920s. My great uncle was Dr. Maurice Merrill, a 1922 graduate of OU Law who then earned a Doctorate in Law from Harvard University in 1925. Merrill taught at OU Law for 30 years, published numerous seminal works in oil and gas law, constitutional law, administrative law and the law of Notice. While still in his twenties, Merrill published the seminal treatise Implied Covenants in Oil and Gas Law, which has been a cornerstone of my cases. In law school, I lived with Uncle Maurice and marveled at his longhand scrawl which was literally final copy in its first draft form. In my mind, he will always be ten times the lawyer that I ever became.