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Oklahoma City University and the Oklahoma City University School of Law on Tuesday announced the formation of a new institute for the advancement of tribal sovereignty. 

The OCU Tribal Sovereignty Institute will be housed at the Oklahoma City University School of Law in downtown Oklahoma City, with the aim of producing scholarship on the topic of sovereignty; elevating understanding about sovereignty; educating and training lawyers with expertise in American Indian law; and ultimately pursuing sovereignty initiatives beyond the legal realm through cultural preservation, language revitalization and economic development, according to OCU Law Dean David Holt. 

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Holt made the announcement during the opening day of the 36th annual Sovereignty Symposium on June 13, an annual event established to provide a forum where Oklahoma 39 tribes can come together with federal and state officials to discuss common legal issues. 

Holt said the OCU Tribal Sovereignty Institute will address a critical need.

“Policymakers need more independent, credible information on this topic,” Holt said of the Tribal Sovereignty Institute. “All government entities, law firms, and tribes need attorneys who are knowledgeable in these areas. Considering our existing work and our location, we think that OCU and OCU Law are ideal institutions to meet this need. This Institute will further establish our law school, our university and our city as leaders at the forefront of these sovereignty conversations.”

Holt said that the first step in developing the Tribal Sovereignty Institute will be hiring an executive director over the next year, who will also serve as a full-time faculty member at the OCU School of Law.

Gov. Bill Anoatubby of the Chickasaw Nation said at the symposium that he believes the forthcoming OCU Tribal Sovereignty Institute will provide an important new platform to expand the conversation around sovereignty year-round.

Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear said that as a practicing attorney and an elected tribal leader, he sees the prominence of sovereignty issues every day.

“We need information that is accessible to attorneys and policymakers and members of the public,” Standing Bear said on Tuesday. “We need focused training as well. I think this Institute can play a critical role in this regard and I’m pleased to see it launch.”

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