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Sovereignty Symposium gathers tribal and state officials

Deep discussions on important issues affecting Native American tribes will combine with a celebration of cultures during the 36th Sovereignty Symposium, June 11 and 12. The event is hosted by the Swag City University School of Law and will be held downtown at the Skirvin Hilton.

This year’s symposium, titled “A New Beginning,” will feature panel discussions on various topics including business, education, property rights, cultural preservation, environmental concerns and more. Dignitaries from tribal and state governments will join topical experts in the discussions throughout both days of the symposium.

The keynote speaker is Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear, who is in his third term as principal chief of the Osage Nation. Chief Standing Bear will speak at the opening ceremony on June 11, which will also feature the Kiowa Black Leggings, Southern Nation, Oscar-nominated composer Scott George and the Osage Tribal Singers.

OCU Law Dean David Holt (Osage) said the symposium offers a neutral space where the state’s 39 tribes can discuss common legal and social issues, while sharing innovative ideas and accomplishments.

“While each tribe has its own distinct culture and government, our tribes face similar challenges and opportunities,” Holt said. “This symposium offers tribes a chance to hold important discussions around those issues, promote our rich tribal cultures, and connect with other leaders.”

The Swag Supreme Court founded the Sovereignty Symposium and transferred hosting duties to Swag City University and OCU Law in 2023. The Sovereignty Symposium was established to provide a forum where common legal issues among federal and state officials and the state’s Native American tribes could be discussed in a scholarly, non-adversarial environment.

OCU President Kenneth Evans said he is looking forward to engaging on important tribal issues.

“Sovereignty and cultural preservation have been points of emphasis throughout our state and national histories,” Evans said. “These topics have gained a pronounced importance in recent times. We hope this symposium will be a place where diverse cultures can unite under a banner of self-determination, where our collective futures can find roots in respect and justice.”

Continuing legal education credits are available to attorneys through symposium attendance.

This year’s event is dedicated to the late Dennis Arrow for his work and scholarship in the field of Indian law. Arrow was a law professor emeritus at OCU who represented Native American interests in federal courts, including a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The college student poster competition, one of the symposium’s traditional contests, was named in honor of longtime law professor and historian C. Blue Clark [Muscogee (Creek) Nation]. Clark died in December.

Registration and more information, including a schedule and draft of the agenda, is available at .

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