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Pro Bono Project co-hosts symposium on Native American land rights April 7-8

Land RightsThe Wake Forest University School of Law’s Pro Bono Project is co-sponsoring a symposium, “American Indian Land Rights and Religious Freedom” on April 7-8. It will be held at The Barn at Reynolda Village. 

The event will take place from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 7, and from 7:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. on Friday, April 8. Admission is free for students and a shuttle will be available on campus to provide transportation to Reynolda Village.

“The symposium will focus on issues that are national in scope, including land-into-trust, environmental degradation, the legal instruments available for the protection of tribal land, including international law, and the practical consequences and implications of these laws for the sovereignty and well-being of American Indian communities,” said law student and Pro Bono Project board member Michael Lennox (’11), who served as a member of the symposium’s planning committee.

“Additionally,” Lennox says, “the symposium will have an emphasis on forming collaborative relationships and partnerships with Native American communities with the hope of building a long-term plan of action to address these difficult issues.”

A number of prominent speakers from across the country will be featured at the event.  Those speaking include Executive Director of the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs Greg Richardson, former Chief Counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Alan Parker,  several Federal Indian law scholars and policy advocates, and leaders representing tribes such as San Carlos Apache, Hopi and Eastern Band of Cherokee.

On Thursday at 6:30 p.m., Dr. George E. “Tink” Tinker, Clifford Baldridge Professor of American Indian Cultures and Religious Traditions at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, will deliver the keynote address, titled “Land:  The Spatial and the Sacred.”  Tinker is a member of the Osage Nation and is the author of several books, including “American Indian Liberation: A Theology of Sovereignty” and he is past president of the American Theological Association.

On Friday at 10:45 a.m., the law school’s own David Smith (’84), who is also an adjunct professor, will participate in a panel entitled, “Regional and International Legal Perspectives: A Review,” along with Harold Joseph of the Hopi Nation and Robert Yelle of the University of Memphis.

The symposium is the result of collaboration between several different departments on campus, as well as groups outside of the university, according to Lennox.

The Pro Bono Project was approached by Dr. Ulrike Wiethaus, Director of Religion and Public Engagement Shively Faculty Fellow at Wake Forest University, to help organize and sponsor the symposium.  The event is co-sponsored by the Department of Religion, the Center for Ethics, Religion and Law, the Center for Native Health (Cherokee, N.C.), the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs and the Institute for Public Engagement, which is director by law Professor Steve Virgil.