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National Congress of American Indians to honor ASU professor


March 01, 2012

Eddie Brown, ASU professor, was honored by the National Congress of American Indians for his commitment to tribal sovereignty and his work to build strong, healthy Native communities at an annual leadership awards banquet, March 6, in Washington, D.C.

“It’s always nice to be recognized, especially when it’s among your own people and people you’ve worked a lifetime with. I’m very honored,” he said. Other honorees include Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska), assistant secretary of Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk and the Washington Internship for Native Students at American University.

Brown, the executive director of the American Indian Policy Institute, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has worked for years to preserve the rights granted to Native Americans to determine their destiny as sovereign tribes.

Tribal Sovereignty is an inherent right for Native Americans.

“As American Indians, tribal sovereignty is what we hang our hats on. That is the foundation and the underpinning that established our relationship with the federal government,” Brown said.

Brown served as assistant secretary of Indian Affairs in the United States Department of Interior and pushed for self-governance legislation that recognized the rights of tribes to contract with the federal government to run their own programs.

“Tribal governments don’t really fit into the governance structure in the United States. That’s why we need federal Indian law to protect rights of Native people,” he said.

As the former director of the Arizona Department of Economic Security, Brown worked with states and counties to implement the Indian Child Welfare Act in an era when Native American children were being adopted and taken away from reservations, Brown said.  

“Federal legislation gave American Indians the right to control their most special resource and that is children,” he said.

Brown’s earned his doctoral degree in social work from the University of Utah in 1975 and much of his focus has been on improving conditions for Native American families and children through programs that focus on employment, elderly populations, self-determination and parenting classes for American Indians who grew up in an age when Native American children were sent away to school.

“Many American Indians were raised in a boarding school environment. They were not in normal families. Today parents are struggling with how to traditionally and wisely raise their children. This has been a very challenging issue, but one we are successfully grappling with,” he said.