Law lecture to examine tribal citizenship in a globalized world
Stacy L. Leeds, dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law, will deliver the sixth Annual William C. Canby Jr. Lecture on Jan. 24, at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. The title of Leeds’ talk is “Whose Sovereignty? Tribal Citizenship, Federal Indian Law, and Globalization.”
The lecture, presented by the Indian Legal Program (ILP) at the College, is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. in the Great Hall of Armstrong Hall on the Tempe campus. It is free and open to the public, and will be followed by a reception in the Steptoe & Johnson Rotunda.
The lecture honors Judge William C. Canby Jr. of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, a founding faculty member of the College of Law. Judge Canby taught the first classes in Indian law there and was instrumental in creating the ILP.
Leeds, the first American Indian woman to serve as dean of a law school, has worked with tribes for more than two decades, interpreting tribal law and serving as a judge for many tribes, including the Cherokee Nation.
“I will discuss how foundational principles of tribal sovereignty developed domestically and how those principles may evolve in the future, including issues of internal and external government accountability, interaction with other nations, and enforcement of tribal rights,” Leeds said.
She said it is important to understand the context in which Native American tribes have defined citizenship in the past in order to predict how it will be defined in the future.
“We are witnessing a global awakening currently with respect to indigenous sovereignty,” Leeds said.
The question is whether tribal sovereignty will be affected by globalization, she said. If this is the case, it could mean a much more complex relationship between the federal government and tribal governments in the future.
For years, the U.S. government has refused to recognize tribal sovereign powers while simultaneously endorsing and supporting similar powers in newly created sovereigns around the globe, Leeds said. However, she noted, we are starting to see positive change as international law plays a greater role within the U.S.
“Enhanced global recognition of tribal government stature is finally being realized to some extent,” Leeds said. “But it will necessarily open tribes up to more internal and external scrutiny, and communities have to be ready for that.”
“We are delighted to welcome Dean Leeds to the College of Law to deliver our Canby Lecture,” said Dean Douglas Sylvester. “Her expertise in tribal sovereignty, as well as her accomplishments in the Native American community and in legal academia, make her an ideal fit for this important program.”
As part of the larger discussion, Leeds said she will touch briefly on the Cherokee Freedman Controversy, a political and tribal dispute between the Cherokee Nation and descendants of the Cherokee Freedmen regarding tribal citizenship. As a judge for the Cherokee Nation, she in 2006 wrote the majority opinion in Allen v. Cherokee Nation Tribal Council that ruled the Freedmen, a group of African-American descendents of former slaves of the Cherokee, were entitled to full citizenship in the tribe.
“Stacy has long been a leader in education and tribal government,” said Robert Clinton, Foundation Professor of Law at the College of Law. “At a time when the Cherokee Freedman controversy was heating up at the Cherokee Nation, her courageous opinion for the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court was widely heralded, although controversial.”
Clinton added that Leeds has been a pioneer as a Native American scholar and author, and her contributions to the field of Indian law are widely respected.
“I am very honored to be a part of this lecture series and to contribute to the world-class work of the Indian Legal Program at ASU,” Leeds said. “The program has a fantastic reputation and a vibrant Indian law curriculum.”
Before arriving at the University of Arkansas, Leeds was Interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Kansas School of Law and director of the Northern Plains Indian Law Center at the University of North Dakota School of Law. She has taught law at the University of Kansas, the University of North Dakota and the University of Wisconsin School of Law.
Leeds was the first woman and youngest person to serve as a Justice on the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court. She teaches, writes and consults in the areas of American Indian law, property, energy and natural resources, economic development, judicial administration and higher education.