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Locklear to speak on 'judicial activism' in Indian law

Arlinda Locklear
September 21, 2011

The first American Indian woman to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court will deliver this fall’s Simon Ortiz and Labriola Center Lecture on Indigenous Land, Culture, and Community. Arlinda Locklear challenged the State of South Dakota on a sovereignty issue in the 1984 U.S. Supreme Court case, Solem v. Bartlett. She will talk about “the development of fundamental principles as applied in tribal land claims and the dramatic changes we're facing,” in a lecture titled “Tribal Land Claims: A Generation of Federal Indian Law on the Edge” at 7 p.m. Oct. 6 at the Heard Museum, 2301 N. Central Ave. in Phoenix.

For 35 years, Locklear, now a Washington, D.C., attorney has represented tribes throughout the U.S., in federal and state courts, on treaty claims to water and land, taxation disputes with states and local authorities, reservation boundary issues, and federal recognition of tribes.

“We are accustomed to the notion that tribal communities are protected under federal law in the permanent and peaceable possession of their lands. While white contact left tribal communities with precious little, we were left with this invaluable barrier against the dominant society,” said Locklear. Now, we may be witnessing the unraveling of this federal protection – not from an act of Congress or the repudiation of treaties, but through judicial activism.”

Locklear, an enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, said the injustice she saw as a child inspired her to a career in law.

She earned her law degree from Duke University School of Law and began her legal career with the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder, and later transferred to the Washington, D.C., office. As directing attorney for seven years there, Locklear supervised significant litigation of Indian issues as well as the legislative work of the office.

In addition to the lecture, Locklear will be the guest of the Labriola National American Indian Data Center during a meet-and-greet at 10 a.m. Oct. 6. The Labriola Center is located on the second floor of Hayden Library on ASU’s Tempe campus. The Indian Legal Program in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law will hold a presentation and reception at 2 p.m. in the Faculty Center (Room 266) in Armstrong Hall.

The lecture and campus events are sponsored by Arizona State University’s American Indian Studies Program and Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the American Indian Policy Institute; Indian Legal Program in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law; Labriola National American Indian Data Center; Faculty of History in the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies; and Women and Gender Studies in the School of Social Transformation; with support from the Heard Museum.

More information is available at the series website: or at 480-965-7611.

Written by Carrie Grant.

Kristen LaRue,
Department of English
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences