College of Law's Bellwood Lecture to Focus on Tribal Nations Law

Thursday, February 4 2010

MOSCOW, Idaho – Three national leaders in Native American law will come together to present diverse perspectives on “The United States and Tribal Nations: An Evolving Relationship Guided by Domestic and International Law" at the University of Idaho College of Law's 14th annual Bellwood Lecture on Friday, April 16.

Larry Echo Hawk, assistant secretary for Indian Affairs in the U.S. Department of Interior, will moderate a discussion on the diverse legal perspectives of a policy-maker/administrator and a civil rights lawyer. The dialogue will be presented by Lawrence Baca, president of the Federal Bar Association, and Rebecca Tsosie, executive director of the Indian Legal Program in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

"We selected this year's topic to show that there is a significant difference between the way we look at tribal governance nationally, and the way indigenous people from around the world look at their governance," said Helen Albertson-Ploucha, associate dean of the College of Law. "The lecture will provide an appreciation for issues that face tribal nations in dealing with the law of the United States."

The Bellwood Lecture will take place at 4 p.m. in the university's ASUI-Kibbie Activity Center, 1000 Stadium Dr. in Moscow. The event also will feature a University of Idaho student drum group and a cultural welcoming to open the lecture. A public reception will follow.

Baca, a Pawnee Indian, is a nationally recognized authority on federal Indian law and race. Formerly, he served as a deputy director of the Office of Tribal Justice in the U.S. Department of Justice. During his 32 years with the DOJ, he also served as a senior trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division. His civil rights work on behalf of American Indians in the areas of credit, voting rights and education was groundbreaking.

Baca served as chairman of the American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession from 2002-05 after serving two years as a commissioner. He has been elected president of the National Native American Bar Association three times.

In April 2008, the Indian Law Section of the Federal Bar Association created the Lawrence R. Baca Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Federal Indian Law to honor his career and contributions to the Federal Bar Association; he was its first recipient. Baca also received the ABA's Spirit of Excellence Award in 2008, which recognized his work in mentoring minority attorneys and opening doors and opportunities for Native American attorneys at the DOJ.

Baca received his juris doctorate from Harvard Law School, and was one of the first American Indians to graduate from Harvard. He also was the first American Indian hired through the DOJ's Honor Law Program.

Tsosie, of Yaqui descent, is a professor of law and an affiliate professor for the American Indian Studies program at ASU; she has served as executive director of the university's Indian Legal Program since 1996. She has written and published widely on doctrinal and theoretical issues related to tribal sovereignty, environmental policy and cultural rights, and has authored many prominent articles dealing with cultural resources and cultural pluralism.

She also has worked extensively with tribal governments and organizations. She serves as a Supreme Court justice for the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and as a Court of Appeals judge for the San Carlos Tribal Court of Appeals.

Tsosie was appointed as a Willard H. Pedrick Distinguished Research Scholar in 2005. Prior to this, she held the title of Lincoln Professor of Native American Law and Ethics. She was awarded a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and received the American Bar Association's Spirit of Excellence Award in 2002. She also is the 2006 recipient of the Judge Learned Hand Award for public service. Tsosie received her juris doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles.

A member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, Echo Hawk has served as assistant secretary for Indian Affairs since May 2009. In addition to carrying out the department’s trust responsibilities in regards to the management of tribal and individual Indian trust lands and assets, he is responsible for promoting the self-determination and economic self-sufficiency of the nation’s 562 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and their 1.9 million enrolled members.

Echo Hawk was elected attorney general of Idaho in 1990, the first American Indian in U.S. history to achieve that distinction. He had served as the Bannock County (Idaho) prosecuting attorney since 1986. Before that, he served two consecutive terms in the Idaho House of Representatives, from 1982-86.

A former U.S. Marine, Echo Hawk began his law career as a legal services attorney working for impoverished Indian people in California. He served on the American Indian Services National Advisory Board and Board of Trustees. He was appointed by former President Bill Clinton to the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, which is responsible for coordinating the Federal government’s efforts to combat juvenile delinquency in the U.S. He also has served on the Indian Alcoholism Counseling and Recovery Housing Program, and the American Indian Community Resource Center Board. Echo Hawk received his juris doctorate from the University of Utah.

A reception for the Boise legal community will be held the previous day, April 15, at 5:30 p.m. at the University of Idaho Boise, 850 W. Front Street. At the event, both Baca and Tsosie will deliver remarks on contemporary issues in Indian country for Native attorneys.

Prior Bellwood lecturers have included national leaders of the legal profession, the academy, and the judiciary, including, most recently, the Chief Justice of the United States, Hon. John G. Roberts, Jr.

The lecture is named after the late Sherman J. Bellwood, an Idaho native and Idaho District Court judge of 20 years. After receiving an undergraduate degree from the University of Idaho in 1939, Bellwood went on to law school, served in the military, practiced law and became president of the Idaho State Bar before entering the judiciary. He funded this endowed lectureship at the College of Law. It is the largest endowed lectureship at the university.

Serving Idaho since 1909, the College of Law has been recognized nationally for its distinctive programs, including its clinical legal education, pro bono service, diversity initiatives, and cross-disciplinary fields of study, including environmental and natural resources law, business law and entrepreneurship, advocacy and dispute resolution, and Native American law. For more information about the College of Law and its legacy, visit
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education 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 the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. The university is home to the Vandals, the 2009 Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl champions. For information, visit

Note to media: A media availability will be scheduled for Friday, April 16; location is yet to be determined. Please RSVP in advance to Joni Kirk. Full bios for Lawrence Baca, Rebecca Tsosie and Larry Echo Hawk are available upon request.

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit