Dean of the University of Oklahoma’s Law School, Joe Harroz, sees this gift from the Chickasaws as proof that his program is headed in the right direction.
“It is an incredible gift and I think its a tribute to the commitment of the Chickasaw Nation and Governor Anoatubby's leadership. Its also hopefully an acknowledgement of what's happening at the University of Oklahoma and included within that the University of Oklahoma College of Law,” Harroz said.
“There are a number of law schools across the country that would like to be leaders in Native American law. I'm very proud of what's happening here at OU because I believe that we are the national leader and hopefully this gift speaks to that,” Harroz said.
“Certainly the gift itself to me is a great example of what we're doing here, and it helps establish us, I believe, as the undisputed leader in Native American law,” Harroz said.
“If you look at what we have been able to accomplish here, we have two full time scholars that are dedicated American Indian law scholars and this gift from the Chickasaw Nation is a gift that firmly establishes us with that because this is the first gift of its kind in the country to establish a permanent dedicated endowed chair in Native American law at a law school. It is a measure of our success.”
“It also allows us to keep the most talented Indian law professors and programs in the country. And we're proud of that. I mean, look around, a little over 11 percent of our incoming first year law students are American Indian,” Harroz said.
“No other law school can say that. If you look over the last ten years, no law school in America has had a larger population of Native American students than OU College of Law and what I love about it is that it’s throughout our culture here at OU Law,” Harroz said. “Literally, if you look at the walls here in this office, and look at the walls across the law school, in the student areas, the faculty areas, in our library, they're adorned with one of the most important Native American art collections in the country.”
“If you look at our programs, our programs are like that as well. We now have in our law degree, our JD degree, we have a certificate that you can receive, through hard work, in Native American law. We also have post JD, after your law degree, there is a Master of Legal Studies, the John B. Turner LLM in Native American Law,” Harroz said.
“We also started just this semester a program for those who are not lawyers, a Masters degree for students who’d like to pursue a Masters in the Native American law area. So hopefully we're showing an absolute dedication at OU law to Native American law, to the American Indian experience and making sure that we are a leader in this area”
Another example is the student run American Indian Law Review. The OU Law School also sponsors what has become the third largest symposium in the country on Native American law and policy, with the help of undergraduate and graduate students from the Native American Studies program at OU. “Remarkably over 40 percent of our students, of all students that come to OU law, take a course in Native American law so when we look at what's going on here, it is an exciting experience,” Harroz said.
“It is one that we believe that is a deep part of our heritage and with this landmark gift by the Chickasaw Nation, it is a tremendously important part of our future.”
Recent judgments by the Supreme Court have gone against Indian Country, and Native American law students must be prepared for every eventuality.
“Whatever your political view may be, whatever view towards a particular body, the key is that its fully informed. When you look at what we're doing here at OU law, it’s to make sure that those students that have a direct interest in Native American law and policy, have the legal foundations that they need to be effective advocates for the positions they take,” Harroz said.
The search for the right person to fill the chair will begin soon.
“The search will probably take place over the next six months and it’s a search process that involves professors here at the law school but also those outside of the law school that can help us in that search process,” Harroz said.
“The absolute key criteria for us is the most outstanding scholar in the field of Native American Law. Period.”
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