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ASU hosts 'Sovereignty Issues in Indian Country' conference

February 16, 2006

Arizona State University will host a conference to explore contemporary issues affecting the political, environmental, and cultural autonomy of Indians and Indian communities in the Americas. The conference, "Sovereignty Issues in Indian Country," provides participants with the opportunity to examine and discuss issues that shape sovereignty for Indian nations. The event is sponsored by ASU's Ethnicity, Race, and First Nations Studies program.

"The event will focus on sovereignty issues facing the American Indian community as they apply to the issues of education, biocolonialism, the local issue surrounding Snowbowl and the preservation of sacred spaces," said Gloria Cuadraz, director of Ethnic Studies and associate professor Language, Culture, and History at ASU's West campus. "The issues are important and relevant to one and all."

The conference is scheduled 6 to 9 p.m., Thursday, March 2, in La Sala at ASU's West campus, 4701 W. Thunderbird Road, Phoenix. The event is free and open to the public.

David Wilkins, professor of American Studies at the University of Minnesota and prominent scholar on American Indian law and politics, will lead and moderate the panel. He will provide a broad national and historical context for the sovereignty issues introduced during the panel discussion. Wilkins is a Lumbee Indian and is recognized as one of the nation's most prominent scholars on American Indian law and politics.

"Ultimately, the frustration for indigenous nations comes from being excluded from the Constitutional framework," Wilkins says. "It is a matter of structural disadvantage. What was once a relatively bilateral relationship is now systemically unbalanced. That's why we have to find ways to revive the relative balance of the treaty relationships."

Invited speakers include Peterson Zah (Diné), advisor on American Indian Affairs for ASU and Leland Leonard (Diné), director of the Department of Diné Education, Navajo Nation;  Debra Harry, executive director of the Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism; and Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, director of the Hopi Cultural Preservation office.

Additionally, conference participants are encouraged to visit the annual Music and Marketplace event, sponsored by the Native American Events committee. Each year, the committee selects one Arizona tribe to highlight as a way to educate the university community about the rich and varied Native American cultures of Arizona. The marketplace is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., in the Delph Courtyard at ASU's West campus.