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Tribal Law & Government Center

Effectively representing Indian nations and tribes requires an understanding of the laws, history and policies that affect them. The complexity of "Indian law," and the lack of specific programs designed to educate graduates about the unique legal and cultural needs of Indian people, has created a situation in which lawyers representing Indian tribes place too great an emphasis on state law and federal law when dealing with Indian nations. As a result, these lawyers may unconsciously be contributing to the weakening of unique tribal legal and governance traditions by recommending the adoption of tribal laws and policies founded upon the Anglo-American legal and political traditions rather than the unique traditions of their tribal clients.

Through its activities, the Tribal Law & Government Center at KU Law aims to equip students and legal professionals who will represent Indian nations with the skills necessary to appreciate and strengthen the unique nature of indigenous tribal legal systems.


Curriculum

Core Courses

  • Sovereignty, Self-Determination and the Indigenous Nations
  • Native American Natural Resources
  • Federal Indian Law
  • Comparative Law
  • Special Topics in American Indian Law (such as Indian Gaming and Economic Development in Indian Country)

Related Courses

  • Federal Courts and the Federal System
  • Legislation
  • Public International Law
  • International Law Seminar
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Business Associations I
  • Public Lands and Natural Resources
  • Water Law
  • Local Government Law
  • International Human Rights
  • Oil and Gas

Course descriptions

Tribal Lawyer Certificate

The Tribal Lawyer Certificate program is designed to ensure that law students aspiring to a career representing Indian nations have the skills necessary to appreciate and strengthen the unique nature of indigenous tribal legal systems.

JD/MA in Indigenous Studies

KU Law's joint degree program in law and indigenous studies allows students to graduate with both the J.D. and an M.A. in Indigenous Studies in seven semesters, including summer school. The program aspires to facilitate the protection and strengthening of indigenous sovereignty, self-determination, and self-sufficiency in indigenous nations throughout the Americas. The University of Kansas was the third institution of higher learning in the United States to offer a joint degree program relating to indigenous peoples.

Clinics

The Tribal Judicial Support Clinic gives second- and third-year students the opportunity to assist tribal court systems through a variety of projects. Although the Tribal Law & Government Center gives priority to the research requests of regional tribes (Kansas and Oklahoma), clinical students have worked on projects for tribal courts throughout the nation.

Students also may be interested in the Legislative Clinic, in which they intern for members of the Kansas Legislature and study advocacy in the legislative process.

Tribal Law & Government Conference

Each year, KU hosts the Tribal Law & Government Conference, which devotes significant scholarly attention to the study of organic tribal law, modern tribal governments and the evolution of tribal common law. The conference highlights how works of scholars and tribal jurists addressing the emerging and historical problems of indigenous law and governance are critical to strengthening tribal sovereignty.


19th Annual Tribal Law & Government Conference

"The Future of Indian Education"
Friday, March 13, 2015 | Burge Union | University of Kansas | Lawrence, KS

The 2015 Tribal Law & Government Conference at the University of Kansas School of Law will discuss the status quo of Indian education and how it might change in the future based on President Obama’s recent commitment to reform.

CLE Credit and Lunch
2.5 hours of CLE credit, including 1 hour of ethics, are approved for Kansas and Missouri. Attorneys who wish to receive CLE credit will be assessed a $25 fee. CLE materials are available electronically in the schedule below for review and printing. Materials will not be available the day of the program in a paper version. All materials must be accessed electronically.

Lunch will be provided.

Parking
Parking is available for $1.75 for the first hour and $1.50 for each additional hour in the Visitor Parking Garage, just south of Green Hall. Visitors who park in surface lots near the law school will be ticketed.

Program Accessibility
We accommodate persons with disabilities. Please submit your request no later than March 6 to cmai@ku.edu or 785-864-9208 TTY: 711.

Cancellation Policy
All cancellations received on or before March 6 will be refunded 100 percent. No refunds will be allowed after that time.

Questions?
Contact Professor Elizabeth Kronk Warner at 785-864-1139 or elizabeth.kronk@ku.edu.

Schedule

8:30-9:00 Check-in and Continental Breakfast
9:00-9:15 Welcome Remarks

Dean Stephen Mazza, University of Kansas School of Law
Elizabeth Kronk Warner, Associate Professor, University of Kansas School of Law; Director, KU Tribal Law & Government Center; Affiliated Professor, Indigenous Studies
9:15-10:05 Morning Keynote Speaker
Surveying Indian Education and Legal Reform 
(PDF)

Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of Interior
Introduction: Jason Harmon, third-year KU Law student

This presentation will focus broadly on two issues. First, the presentation will begin with an overview of Indian education and the federal government’s role in Indian education. Second, the presentation will explore the wide variety of proposed Indian educational reform nationwide, focusing on legal developments.
10:05-10:15 Break
10:15-11:45 Panel | History of Indian Education and the Status Quo

President Venida Chenault, Haskell Indian Nations University
Mandy Smoker Broaddus, Director of Indian Education, Montana Office of Public Instruction
Connor Warner, Instructor for Urban Teacher Education, University of Missouri-Kansas City
Moderator: Amanda Angell, third-year KU Law student

This panel presentation will focus on the history of Indian education from both higher education and K-12 perspectives. The panel will begin with a discussion of Indian higher education, focusing on tribal colleges and universities. The panel will then move to a survey discussion of Indian education in K-12 institutions nationwide. The panel will conclude with a deeper discussion of how Indian education at the K-12 level is implemented in one state, Montana.
12:00-1:00 Lunch, Relays Room, Burge Union
1:15-2:45
1.5 CLE credits
Panel | Legal Reform of Indian Education

Dawn Baum (PDF), Senior Attorney and Indian Education Team Leader, U.S. Department of Interior, Office of the Solicitor, Bureau of Indian Education
Jill Eichner (PDF), Attorney, U.S. Department of Education, Office of the General Counsel
Melody McCoy (PDF), Staff Attorney, Native American Rights Fund
William Mendoza, Executive Director, White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education
Moderator: Annette McDonough, third-year KU Law student

This panel will focus on proposed legal reforms to Indian education. The panel will begin with a nationwide survey of proposed legal reforms to Indian education. Following this national survey, the panel will examine proposed federal reforms, specifically focusing on the White House Initiative, Bureau of Education within the Department of the Interior and Department of Education activities.
2:45-3:00 Break
3:00-3:55
1.0 CLE credits
Ethics | Ethical Considerations for Tribal Lawyers and Judges (PDF)

Elizabeth Kronk Warner, Associate Professor, University of Kansas School of Law; Director, KU Tribal Law & Government Center; Affiliated Professor, Indigenous Studies

This presentation will examine ethical quandaries that typically face tribal lawyers and judges. Specifically, the presentation will address appearances of impropriety, ex parte communications, the duty of competence, confidentiality, disqualification and tribal codes of ethics.
3:55-4:00 Concluding Remarks
Elizabeth Kronk Warner

Speakers

Kevin Washburn
Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior (tentatively confirmed)

An enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma, Kevin Washburn was confirmed by the United States Senate as the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs for the U.S. Department of the Interior on September 21, 2012, and was sworn into office by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on October 9, 2012. Washburn came to the Department of the Interior from the University of New Mexico School of Law, where he served as dean. Prior to that, he served as the Rosentiel Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, and as an associate professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School. Washburn is a well-known scholar of federal Indian law. Among his other books and articles, he is a co-author and editor of the leading legal treatise in the field of Indian law, Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law (2012 edition). Washburn was raised in Oklahoma and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics with honors from the University of Oklahoma (1989). He also received a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School (1993), where he was editor-in-chief of the Yale Journal on Regulation.

Dr. Venida S. Chenault
President, Haskell Indian Nations University

A member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation in Kansas, Venida S. Chenault is an experienced educator and administrator in higher education. She is the author of the book, "Weaving Strength Weaving Power: Violence and Abuse Against Indigenous Women" (Carolina Academic Press, 2011), which focuses on the phenomenon of violence against First Nations women. She is a recognized public speaker on her work related to violence and abuse. Chenault has successful authored a wide range of grants benefiting Haskell Indian Nations University and numerous articles on empowerment and First Nations People during her career. She has provided leadership at Haskell in numerous capacities since 1991. She was even a student at Haskell in the fall of 1975 and spring of 1984 and later attended the University of Kansas, where she earned a bachelor’s in social work in 1986, a master’s in social work in 1990 and a Ph.D. in philosophy in 2004. She has received several awards, including Haskell Outstanding Alumni of the Year (Spring 2009) and the Crystal Eagle Indigenous Leadership Award, Center for Indigenous Studies, University of Kansas (Spring 2005).

Mandy Smoker Broaddus
Director of Indian Education, Montana Office of Public Instruction

Mandy Smoker Broaddus graduated from Seaver College, Pepperdine University and has served since 2009 as the director of Indian Education for the state of Montana. Broaddus is a member of the Fort Peck Sioux and Assiniboine tribes from northeastern Montana.

Connor Warner
Instructor for Urban Teacher Education, University of Missouri-Kansas City

Connor K. Warner joined the UMKC School of Education faculty in August 2014 as an Instructor of Urban Teacher Education. He is also a doctoral candidate in the KU Department of Curriculum & Teaching, where he is scheduled to defend his dissertation, “Formative Impacts of High-Stakes Portfolio Assessment on Pre-service English Teachers: A Qualitative Study of KPTP Construction and Submission,” in June 2015. Prior to arriving at UMKC, Warner served as the English Department Chair at Stevensville High School, Stevensville, Montana, where he helped revise the school’s curriculum to integrate Montana’s Indian Education for All initiative. His research interests include educational content standards, pre-service teacher education and Indian education, and his work has been published in both national and international education journals. His most recent scholarship focuses on representations of contemporary American Indians within state social studies content standards. In addition to his work at UMKC, Warner also serves as an assistant examiner for the International Baccalaureate, a reader for the Advanced Placement World History Exam, and a volunteer adjunct instructor at Haskell Indian Nations University. He grew up in and around the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Eastern Montana, and received his B.S.Ed. from Montana State University-Billings and his M.Ed. from Texas Tech University.

Dawn Baum
Senior Attorney and Indian Education Team Leader, U.S. Department of Interior, Office of the Solicitor, Bureau of Indian Education

Dawn Sturdevant Baum is a senior attorney and Indian Education Team leader in the D.C. office of the Department of the Interior’s Office of the Solicitor. She counsels the Bureau of Indian Education at DOI, which operates federal schools for Indians and provides grants and other funding to tribal schools. She transferred to this position in 2012 from the National Indian Gaming Commission’s Office of General Counsel, where she served as the Tulsa Regional Attorney handling matters such as approval of tribal gaming codes, review of financial agreements, investigation and enforcement of gaming violations, Indian land opinions, and regulatory review. Previously, Baum was an attorney with the Native American Rights Fund’s Washington, D.C., office, working on tribal codes and constitutions, education, federal recognition, and state and federal litigation. Baum graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 2001. She also holds an LL.M. in American Indian Law from the University of Tulsa and a B.A. in Religious Studies from Beloit College. Baum is a past president and active member of the Native American Bar Association of D.C. and was also a contributing editor to the Federal Bar Association’s Indian Law Section newsletter. She is finishing up three years of service on the ABA’s Council for Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Educational Pipeline. Baum is an enrolled member of the Mole Lake Band of Chippewa Indians in Wisconsin and is also Menominee. She is licensed to practice in Wisconsin, New Mexico, the District of Columbia, the Court of Federal Claims, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation tribal courts.

Jill Eichner
Attorney, U.S. Department of Education, Office of the General Counsel

Jill Eichner is an attorney at the U.S. Department of Education, Office of the General Counsel. She specializes in three program areas: English Language Learners (Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)), Indian Education (Title VII of the ESEA) and Impact Aid (Title VIII of the ESEA). She previously worked as a teacher of English Language Learners in Arlington, Virginia, and also held several nonprofit positions in the fields of early childhood and adult education. Eichner is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Michigan Law School.

Melody McCoy
Staff Attorney, Native American Rights Fund

Melody McCoy joined the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) as a staff attorney in 1986. At NARF, McCoy has worked primarily in the areas of jurisdiction in Indian country, tribal rights in education, tribal intellectual property rights, and tribal trust funds. McCoy is a past co-chair of the Federal Bar Association's Indian Law Conference, 1990-1992. She served as president of the Colorado Indian Bar Association from 1990-1992, and a board member of the American Indian Bar Association (now the National Native American Bar Association) from 1990-1991. She was a member of NARF's Litigation Management Committee from 1992-1995, and since May 2007 she again has been serving on the committee. McCoy received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University (1981) and law degree from the University of Michigan (1986). She is admitted to practice law in Colorado and Massachusetts. She has practiced before all levels of tribal and federal courts, including arguing a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. McCoy is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

William Mendoza
Executive Director, White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education

William (Bill) Mendoza was appointed executive director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education in December 2011. Mendoza (Oglala-Sicangu Lakota) grew up on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Sioux reservations in South Dakota. He has experienced, firsthand, through his professional and life experiences, the multitude of challenges facing American Indian students, educators and tribes. In addition to being a teacher and principal, Mendoza has worked at the school, professional and community level to help foster leadership development and civic engagement among American Indians. Integral to his professional and academic capacity has been his experiences as a tribal college student at Haskell Indian Nations University, Sinte Gleska University and Oglala Lakota College. He previously served as deputy director and executive director for the White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges. Since his appointment in 2011, Mendoza has provided leadership to key administration initiatives, including Executive Order 13592, Tribal Leaders Speak – The State of Indian Education 2010 Report; State-Tribal Education Partnership Pilot; and 2012 ED-DOI Memorandum of Understanding. Before coming to Washington, D.C., Mendoza was working toward a doctorate in education leadership at Montana State University (MSU). He earned his Bachelor of Arts in humanities from Fort Lewis College in 2005 and a Master of Education from MSU in 2010.

Elizabeth Kronk Warner
Associate Professor of Law; Director, KU Tribal Law & Government Center; Affiliated Professor, University of Kansas School of Law

Elizabeth Kronk Warner joined the KU Law faculty in June 2012, having previously served on the law faculties at Texas Tech University and the University of Montana. In 2010, Warner was selected to serve as an Environmental Justice Young Fellow through the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and U.S.-China Partnership for Environmental Law at Vermont Law School. She has also served as a visiting professor at Xiamen University in Xiamen, China, and Bahcesehir University in Istanbul, Turkey. Her scholarship, which focuses primarily on the intersection of Indian law and environmental law, is published in several prominent journals. She is also co-author of the casebook, Native American Natural Resources. In addition to teaching, Warner serves as an appellate judge for the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Court of Appeals in Michigan. Before entering academia, Warner practiced environmental, Indian and energy law as an associate in the Washington, D.C., offices of Latham & Watkins LLP and Troutman Sanders LLP. Warner previously served as chair of the Federal Bar Association Indian Law Section and was elected to the Association’s national board of directors in 2011. She currently serves as chairwoman of the Kansas Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. She received her J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School and a B.S. from Cornell University. Warner is a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.


Past conferences

18th Annual Tribal Law & Government Conference

"The Indian Child Welfare Act: Past, Present and Future"
Friday, March 7, 2014 | Burge Union | University of Kansas

The conference has reached capacity, and registration is now closed. As space allows, walk-in traffic may be accommodated on the day of the conference.

Poster for "The Indian Child Welfare Act: Past, Present and Future"

This year’s conference focuses on the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), one of the most sweeping statutes in the field of federal Indian law. As Barbara Ann Atwood explained, “ICWA was designed to remedy a unique and longstanding record of child welfare abuses by federal and state officials, state court judges, and private adoption agencies that led to widespread removal of Indian children from their homes and communities.” Intense interest in ICWA was recently sparked by the U.S. Supreme Court’s consideration of and decision in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl in June 2013.

The conference will explore: 1) the historical origins of ICWA, 2) the Court’s decision in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, 3) the potential future of ICWA, and 4) ethical considerations related to ICWA.

KU Law's annual Diversity in Law Banquet will follow the conference. Conference attendees are invited to attend the banquet.

CLE Credit and Lunch
6 hours of CLE credit, including 1 hours of ethics, are approved in Kansas and Missouri. Attorneys who wish to receive CLE credit will be assessed a $25 fee. Lunch will be provided.

Parking
Parking is available for $1.50 an hour in the Visitor Parking Garage, just south of Green Hall. Visitors who park in surface lots near the law school will be ticketed.

Cancellation Policy
All cancellations received on or before February 28 will be refunded 100 percent. No refunds will be allowed after that time.

Questions?
Contact Professor Elizabeth Kronk Warner at 785-864-1139 or elizabeth.kronk@ku.edu.

Schedule

8:30 Continental Breakfast
9:00-9:15 Welcome Remarks
Dean Stephen Mazza, KU Law
Professor Elizabeth Kronk Warner, Director, KU Tribal Law & Government Center
9:15-10:15 Indian Child Welfare Act: Its Origins and Application (PDF)
Dean Stacy Leeds, University of Arkansas School of Law
Moderator: Burton Warrington, President and CEO of Prairie Band LLC
10:15-10:30 Break
10:30-12:00 Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl: The Arguments, The Decision and Potential Implications
Mark Fiddler, Mark Fiddler Law Office (PDF)
Chrissi Nimmo, Assistant Attorney General of the Cherokee Nation (PDF)
Moderator: Professor Elizabeth Kronk Warner, Director, KU Tribal Law & Government Center
12:15-1:15 Lunch, Gridiron Room, Burge Union
1:30-3:00 The Future of ICWA
Russ Brien, Brien Law LLC (PDF)
Vivien Olsen, Attorney with the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation (PDF)
Professor Colette Routel, William Mitchell College of Law
3:00-3:15 Break
3:15-4:15 Ethical Considerations Related to ICWA
Professor Kate Fort, Michigan State University College of Law (PDF)
Moderator: Rebecca Howlett, KU Law Student and KU NALSA Member
4:15 Closing Remarks

Other Opportunities

KU's Native American Law Students Association is an organization of dynamic students, both Indian and non-Indian, who organize annual service projects and social events. NALSA members attend National NALSA conferences and participate in the National NALSA Moot Court Competition. On two occasions, the KU team has won first place in the competition. NALSA members also routinely attend the annual Federal Bar Association's Indian Law Conference in Albuquerque, N.M. Group members also provide mentoring and study materials.

 

 

Questions?

Elizabeth A. Kronk Warner
Director, Tribal Law & Government Center
Associate Professor of Law
785-864-1139
elizabeth.kronk@ku.edu

Tribal Law Conference
Submit a Request for Assistance

Interested in obtaining assistance from the Tribal Judicial Support Clinic? Use this form to submit a work request.

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