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November 14, 2007

Religious Rights of Native Americans is Subject of Law Panel on Nov. 28

Panel Is Part of the Library of Congress’s Native American Heritage Month Celebration

During the past four decades, Congress has enacted legislation to protect the religious and civil rights of Native Americans, but tribal communities have achieved fewer victories through litigation in the state courts.

This disparity is the subject of a panel discussion titled "Indian Religious Freedom, to Litigate or Legislate," to be held at noon on Wednesday, Nov. 28, in the West Dining Room of the Library’s James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.

Sponsored jointly by the Library’s Office of Workforce Diversity and the Law Library of Congress, the program is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required.

Featured panelists Kevin Gover, Suzan Shown Harjo and Dean Suagee will explore the difficulty of protecting American Indian religious rights through litigation. Recent cases will be discussed, including San Francisco Peaks and Cave Rock. The impact of statutory rights provided through the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 and other federal legislation will also be discussed.

Moderating the panel will be Louis Fisher, a constitutional law specialist in the Law Library. From 1970 to March 2006, Fisher worked in the Congressional Research Service, where he was senior specialist in separation of powers. He is the author of "Religious Liberty in America: Political Safeguards" (2003), among other books on national security, separation of powers and constitutional law.

Kevin Gover (Pawnee) is the incoming director of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. He is a professor of law at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University and an affiliate professor in its American Indian Studies Program. Gover received his bachelor’s degree in public and international affairs from Princeton University and his law degree from the University of New Mexico. In 2001, he was awarded an honorary doctor of law degree from Princeton University. From 1997 to 2000, he served as the assistant secretary for Indian Affairs in the U.S. Department of the Interior, where he was responsible for policy and operational oversight of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He is currently an associate judge on the Tonto Apache Tribal Court of Appeals and the San Carlos Apache Tribal Court of Appeals.

Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne & Hodulgee Muscogee) is a poet, writer, lecturer, curator and policy advocate. She has helped Native American recover more than one million acres of land and numerous sacred places, and was lead lobbyist on the Maine and Mashantucket Pequot Settlement acts. She has developed key federal American Indian law since 1975, including policies to promote arts, cultures and languages, as well as the 1996 Executive Order on Indian Sacred Sites, the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the 1989 National Museum of the American Indian Act and the 1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act. She is currently president and executive director of The Morning Star Institute, a national rights organization founded in 1984 for Native Peoples’ traditional and cultural advocacy, arts promotion and research.

Dean Suagee (Cherokee) is counsel to the law firm of Hobbs, Straus, Dean & Walker, LLP, Washington, D.C., a firm that specializes in serving as legal counsel for American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments and tribal organizations. His practice emphasizes environmental law and cultural resources law, and he has worked with a number of tribes in developing tribal legislation and regulations. He is the author of a number of law journal articles on environmental and cultural resources law in Indian country, and is a contributing author of the 2005 edition of Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law. He received his B.A. from the University of Arizona in 1972, J.D. from the University of North Carolina in 1976 and LL.M. in international legal studies from the American University in 1989.

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PR 07-235
11/14/07
ISSN 0731-3527

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