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University of Iowa News Release

Release: Feb. 11, 2003

UI College of Law Hosts American Indian Legal Symposium

The UI College of Law will host a day-long symposium examining legal issues facing American Indians on Friday, March 14 at the Boyd Law Building.

"The Indigenous Nations Law Symposium" will examine the questions of how the federal law code relating to American Indian nations should be amended if not repealed entirely, and the future of advocacy for Indigenous nations in the United States.

"By examining these questions, we hope to find ways to improve the self-governance of the Indian nations and decolonize the relationship between Indian nations and the United States," said Robert Odawi Porter, a UI professor of law organizing the symposium who will also serve on the discussion panel. "The underlying questions we plan to look at are whether there should be a limit on Indian dependency on the federal government and whether laws should be changed to eliminate the federal government's suppression of tribal sovereignty."

In many ways, Porter said the federal government's relationship with the Indian nations is an anachronism, based mostly on a 19th century law code that has rarely been updated. For instance, he said the federal code still spells out a process for Indian women to become citizens by marrying white men and for withholding federal monies due Indians who are at war against the United States or its "white citizens."

The panelists include some of the top scholars of American Indian law: Kristen Carpenter of Suffolk University; Taiawagi Helton of the University of Oklahoma; Robert Laurence of the University of Arkansas; John Lavelle of the University of South Dakota and University of New Mexico; Donald Laverdure of the University of Wisconsin; Frank Pommersheim of the University of South Dakota; and Kevin Washburn of the University of Minnesota.

Also on the panel will be Ross Swimmer, director of the Office of Indian Trust Transition of the U.S. Department of the Interior and President Bush's nominee to be Special Trustee for American Indians.

Each panelist will give a 15-minute presentation on the two topics under examination, followed by a discussion with the audience.

CLE credit will be given to attorneys who attend the symposium. Registration fee is $25. For more information call (319) 335-9089 or Registration deadline is March 14.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACT(S): Tom Snee, 319-384-0010,