On September 13, 2012, students, faculty, and staff joined Vivien Olsen, attorney for the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, and Chris Howell, director of the Kansas Native American Affairs Office, for the first installment of the Leadership Luncheon program.
Olsen explained how a significant portion of her role as a tribal legal representative is devoted to articulating the Potawatomi Nation’s sovereignty rights. Local, state, and federal agencies of the United States interact with tribal governments in ways that require deft negotiations of jurisdiction. Olsen is also one of seven members of the Kansas Inter-Tribal Council.
As a legal representative of a sovereign nation, Olsen encounters a range of issues related to the application of Federal Indian law. One topic Olsen discussed with students was Native American land rights. Challenges tribes face include managing issues caused by “checkerboard” land on reservations; the movement of property into trusts; determination of land ownership; and investigating which law in the complicated legal code applies in each specific situation.
For his part, Chris Howell’s role as the Governor’s Tribal Liaison enables communication between tribal governments and the state government and ensures that Native American concerns are addressed in state policy decisions.
The 2012 Leadership Luncheon program is a collaborative effort sponsored by the Kansas Native American Affairs Office, the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, and the Indigenous Studies program. The program is designed to provide students with the opportunity to network with professional staff members of tribal governments and federal and state agencies. Students who attend the informal luncheons are able to ask questions about working in Indian Country and hear firsthand accounts of how current events impact tribal communities. The next Leadership Luncheon will be held during the Spring Semester.