Universities to offer online Indian law classes
8/24/2011 10:49:12 AM
By TESINA JACKSON
Reporter

TAHLEQUAH, Okla.— In collaboration between the University of Tulsa College of Law and the online Concord Law School of Kaplan University, students will be able to take online classes for a Master’s degree program that focuses on Indian law. 

“This came together when a few years ago I decided that my law school, Concord, really needed to be teaching Indian Law courses,” said Professor Tim Pleasant, co-director. “There were a number of reasons why this was so. We needed to branch out within our law school, which is a relatively new school and we needed to reach out to a population that hadn’t been reached before so well.”

The TU College of Law is home to the Native American Law Center, which provides resources for the study and teaching of legal issues concerning Native American tribes and other indigenous peoples worldwide. 

Starting on August 29, the 30 credit hour program will allow students to obtain an online Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law degree.  

Some of the classes that are offered in the program include tribal gaming law, federal Indian Law, Indian Child Welfare Act, civil jurisdiction in Indian Country, tribal government, taxation, energy and mineral development, environmental protection and remediation, social services, water rights and federal contracting and contacting.   

“So that way they would have a good working knowledge of some of the legal language used among the different organizations of businesses and government agencies that deal with doing business with Indians,” said Shonday Harmon, co-director of the program. “They would have an understanding of the legal landscape in Indian Country.”

The program is for graduate students, particularly those working in tribal governments and businesses and government agencies, who are interested in learning about Indian law. The program is for lawyers who would like to gain additional information or expand their practices. 

“It’s the very first of its kind offering a master’s level degree in Indian Law,” said Harmon, who is Muscogee Creek. “This particular degree program is not for a student who would want to sit for the bar exam and become a practicing attorney, this is actually for someone who is more along the lines of a non-lawyer but may work in or around state, federal and tribal agencies.”

So far for the Fall 2011 semester there have been 19 applicants from 10 states for the program and 12 tribes are represented. Four out of the 19 that applied are non-Native.

“What we hope to accomplish is to provide this education in Indian law to allow people who are not lawyers but who have to work with it everyday to do a better job in whatever it is that they are doing,” Pleasant said. “There are just tons of people out there who have to interface with the legal system or with federal Indian law on some level, or with lawyers who are practicing these things, they have to do it everyday and the objective is to help those people do that job.”

For more information about the program visit www.indianlawmj.org.	

tesina-jackson@cherokee.org • 918-453-5000, ext. 6139
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