Speaker to talk about Native American and tribal policy issues

Paul Demuniz

Tonight is the next in a series of talks about Native American and tribal policy issues. These talks are part of the political science (PS 425) “Native American Politics and Policy” course, but all are invited (both students and the local community) as the speakers will address broader issues.

The class looks at Native American history, law and politics. Dr. Mark Henkels, who teaches the class, said, “Native American tribes have a unique cultural, political and legal status. They are treated differently in the U.S. Constitution and often have treaty rights that, while not exactly identical to those of international treaties, still create special status and rights for tribes.” He emphasized that tribes are diverse and no two tribes have the same political or legal situation while they each face challenges that are specific and unique to their cultural and political identity. “Students taking this class will develop an appreciation for the diversity of tribal situations, and the universal and particular challenges they fact.” The class is co-taught with Justin Martin, a Western graduate with an master’s from Harvard. Martin has experience discussing tribal government relations in Oregon.

When asked what students can expect to learn from the upcoming talks, Henkels said, “Each speaker has been selected to provide a specific perspective on the political, cultural, and legal context of Native Americans. Students learn from experts about the general and specific forces and facts that influence the ability of tribes to exert and preserve their autonomy.”

All talks start at 5:30 p.m. and are located in Bellamy Hall, room 331 on the Western Oregon University campus. One talk already took place on October 19 by Rob Greene, tribal attorney at the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, about general questions of sovereignty and law in Indian Country. Luckily, there are three more to look forward to on October 26, November 23, and November 30.

The talk held tonight (October 26) is by former Chief Justice Paul DeMuniz and is about questions of states, tribes, sovereignty, and Oregon’s unique approach to jurisdiction.

On November 23, Roben Itchoak a graduate student at the University of Oregon, will be speaking about Alaska Native communities and climate change. On November 30, Michelle Singer, communications coordinator for the One Sky Center, will present about local and federal Native American politics and health issues.

Although class members may participate more in asking specialized questions to the guest speakers, the general public is welcome as the speakers gear their talks to everyone. The speakers will provide the class and public with ideas surrounding “the practical challenges and policy developments in Indian Country.”

For any questions regarding these activities, please contact Dr. Henkels at henkelm@wou.edu.