A First: Tribal Leaders, Academics to Convene to Discuss Tribal Disenrollment

Published February 28, 2017

“Who Belongs?” in Indian Country Conference Convenes March 9–10, 2017

 TUCSON, ARIZONA – The “Who Belongs? From Tribal Kinship to Native Nation Citizenship to Disenrollment” Conference will be held at the James E. Rogers College of Law, University of Arizona, March 9-10, 2017.

Gabe Galanda will be a featured speaker.

This first-of-its-kind conference will bring together prominent scholars in the field of Federal Indian Law, International Law, and American Indian Studies, as well as tribal government officials, to discuss recent trends in Indian Country dealing with citizenship and community belonging, including disenrollment.

The conference is historic insofar as “the greater American-Indian academic community has largely and inexplicably ignored the topic” of disenrollment, and, according to one Southern California Tribal leader: “nobody in tribal leader circles is willing to talk about it. Not at NCAI, not at NIGA . . . not anywhere.”  That silence amongst Indian Country’s thought leaders has contributed to the rise in disenrollment.

The conference is co-convened by the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program at the Rogers College of Law and the Department of American Indian Studies.

The Tribal Leaders Forum on the afternoon of March 10 will be moderated by Joan Timeche (Hopi), Executive Director of the Native Nations Institute (NNI), and Dr. Miriam Jorgensen, NNI’s Research Director. Timeche noted, “Participants will have an unparalleled opportunity to explore the question “Who belongs?”— a foundational aspect of self-governance and self-determination for Native nations and critical question for the future of any nation.”

“The conference is designed to address the sensitive issues surrounding who has a hereditary and/or cultural right to be a part of a Native and Aboriginal community, and what are an individual’s responsibilities to that community,” said conference organizer Professor Robert Hershey. “It is our hope that an atmosphere of respect, understanding, listening, and learning will be fostered, and that our gathering will promote utmost dignity.”

Additionally, as highlighted last month by the New York Times, disenrollment has reached an epidemic level, with as many as 9,000 Native Americans having been jettisoned from nearly 80 tribes in recent years. As Professor Robert A. Williams, Jr. (Lumbee) recently stated in the New York Times, “It’s almost become an industry in some parts of Indian Country.”

The conference is designed for attendance by tribal leaders and citizens, tribal and federal government officials, attorneys and advocates practicing Native American and Indigenous Peoples law, Native and Indigenous people, officers of tribal enrollment and constitution reform committees, and faculty and students of American Indian Studies and law.

Confirmed participants include thought-leaders Stephen Cornell, Matthew Fletcher (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians), Gabriel Galanda (Round Valley Indian Tribe), Norbert Hill (Oneida Nation of Wisconsin), Joseph Kalt, Richard Luarkie (Pueblo of Laguna), Oren Lyons  (Onondaga) (Invited), Pamela Palmater (Mi’kmaq), Patricia Riggs (Ysleta del Sur Pueblo), Kawika Riley (Native Hawaiian), Lorinda Riley (Cherokee/Native Hawaiian), Wenona Singel (Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians), Kevin Washburn (Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma), David Wilkins(Lumbee), and tribal leaders, including Bernadine Burnette, President, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, Carol Evans, Chairwoman, Spokane Tribe of IndiansReno Keoni Franklin, Chairman,Kashia Band of Pomo Indians, Edward Manuel, Chairman, Tohono O’odham Nation, and Robert Valencia, Chairman, Pascua Yaqui Tribe. University of Arizona Law professors Rebecca Tsosie(Yaqui descendant), Robert A. Williams, Jr. (Lumbee), and Robert Hershey will also be featured speakers.   

The conference is free to all tribal officials, Native and Indigenous Peoples, faculty, and students. Attorneys are also eligible for 12 CLE hours including one hour of ethics (fees for CLE credits are categorized on the Registration site).

CLICK HERE to register and to see agenda.

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