Reconnecting Economies: Native American Law Conference to Focus on Indigenous Networks and Commerce

Friday, March 18 2011

MOSCOW, Idaho – The 2011 Native American Law Conference at the University of Idaho will explore tribal economics, indigenous human rights and the impact of dams on historic water routes, and will shed light on how those issues intertwine.

The conference is set for Friday, March 25, from 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m., in the university's College of Law Courtroom, Menard Law Building, 711 Rayburn St. on the Moscow campus. The event is sponsored by the James E. Rogers American Indian Law Fund.

“It is an exciting time in Native American economics and law when tribes are increasingly seeking to rebuild commercial networks that existed hundreds of years ago on land and water routes,” said Angelique EagleWoman, University of Idaho professor of law. “The speakers at this year’s Native Law Conference will discuss those efforts using modern legal principles such as free trade zones and international indigenous principles. The conference also will include a discussion on the costs associated with hydropower and the role tribes may play in assessing impacts on affected rivers.”

The Native Law Conference will look closely at the tribes’ traditional economic and business practices, in the past, present and future.

Conference speaker Debora Juarez, chair of the Tribal Practice Group for the Williams Kastner law firm’s Seattle office, will discuss linking tribes together through commercial agreements based on a history of “kinship commerce.”

“Tribes always have participated in a practical and democratic system of trade and commerce based on kinship,” said Juarez. “Kinship trade and commerce is a social tool that builds wealth, stretches relationships, builds alliances, creates power, grants title and ownership, and is used in diplomacy – in both war- and peace-making,” said Juarez.

What has been traded, sold or bought has changed over the centuries as the tribes have developed different notions of trade and goods. In recent history, that adaptation includes development of "contraband economies" based on selling cigarettes, fuel, fireworks, alcohol and gaming. The tribes also continue to produce “treaty-based goods,” retaining their role of stewards of the land, Juarez explained.

“We also have been forced to engage in what I have called ‘litigation economies,’” she added. “We have to continue to fight legal battles to right wrongs and make sure our tribes are compensated for the damage done to their land, resources and trust assets, and lack of social and educational services.”

"The backbone of our tribal societies, whether we recognize it or not, is our continued practice of kinship commerce and diplomacy,” said Juarez. “We have collectively protected and carried forward for many centuries our power to trade, travel and conduct commerce. Kinship commerce has not changed. We have.”

2011 Native American Law Conference speakers also include: Bill Bacon, Shoshone-Bannock tribal attorney; Helo Hancock, attorney and legislative director for the Coeur d'Alene Tribe; Anthony D. Johnson, research and development manager, Nez Perce Tribe; Alan Parker, director of the Northwest Indian Applied Research Institute at Evergreen State College; Tonya Gonnella Frichner, president of the American Indian Law Alliance; and Carl Ullman, project director for the Klamath Tribes Water Adjudication.

For a $40 fee, law practitioners can receive CLE credits for participation. Non-lawyers may register and select “non-lawyer” to have the fee subtracted from their registration. For a complete schedule of events or to register online, visit

The Native Law Program at Idaho Law consists of four components. The first is Associate Professor Angelique EagleWoman who teaches the Native American law courses and serves as a law student adviser. EagleWoman is a citizen of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation in South Dakota. The second component is the academic Native American Law emphasis available for upper-level law students. The emphasis is composed of four requirements to provide law students with a specialization within the field of Native American law. Third is the Native American Law Student Association comprising law students who are interested in the field of Native American law and law students who are Native American. The fourth component consists of positive relationships with the tribal nations in Idaho. Tribal judges, tribal attorneys and tribal leadership are frequent visitors to the law school providing guest lectures, legal perspectives, and support to the Native law program.
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About the University of Idaho

Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s land-grant institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year. The University of Idaho is classified by the prestigious Carnegie Foundation as high research activity. The student population of 12,000 includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars, who select from more than 130 degree options in the colleges of Agricultural and Life Sciences; Art and Architecture; Business and Economics; Education; Engineering; Law; Letters, Arts and Social Sciences; Natural Resources; and Science. The university also is charged with the statewide mission for medical education through the WWAMI program. The university combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities and focuses on helping students to succeed and become leaders. It is home to the Vandals, and competes in the Western Athletic Conference. For more information, visit