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Thursday, May 23, 2024
Law School

Coming Together of Peoples Conference fosters community through Indian law

The Indigenous Law Students Association (ILSA) will host the 38th annual Coming Together of Peoples Conference on April 12 and 13, where the group aims to inform students and community members about Indian law.

The conference will provide students an opportunity to learn from various panelists and experts on Indian law, according to Steven Slack, ILSA treasurer. This refers to the laws that tribes set for themselves and laws that are set by the federal government regarding how it interacts with tribes.

“Indian law refers to everything that law refers to,” Slack said. “There is legislation on everything from child welfare and child placement to crime to anything you can think of that has a law passed by our state Legislature or by the federal government.”

ILSA allows Indigenous students, allies or individuals interested in practicing Indian law to learn and share their knowledge with students and community members to support the progress of Indigenous peoples, Slack said.

“We provide communication among the Indigenous law students, law students with these interests and also faculty, administration, Indigenous people in the public,” Slack said. “And then providing a forum to discussion of legal problems relating to law affecting Indigenous peoples communities and governments.”

Slack said ILSA serves the University of Wisconsin-Madison community by putting on various events for Indigenous students and collaborating with other Indigenous student groups to inform individuals about Indian law.

ILSA has been involved in flag-raising ceremonies on Bascom Hill, along with the posting of the flags of 13 Native Nations at the Lowell Center. They also screened a film at Union South, “Warrior Lawyers,” about the ways current Indigenous lawyers and Indian law practitioners are incorporating restorative justice, according to Slack. 

“We wanted this open, especially to undergrads… and the general student body if there is interest in law on these topics,” Slack said. 

Slack said the Coming Together of Peoples Conference is just one of ILSA’s duties. The organization hosts various events, collaborates with other Indigenous student groups and provides opportunities for students to learn more about Indian law. They are also involved in interviewing and offering their opinions on Indian law professor candidates.

“The Indigenous Law Students Association is a very active and very connected registered student org on campus. We have a very responsive and very deep bench as far as our alumni go,” Slack said. “The org itself is not exclusive to people that identify as indigenous. It’s for allies that are interested in practicing Indian law or knowing more about Indian law.”

The conference, taking place on April 12 and 13, is the longest-running student-led Indigenous conference in the nation, according to Slack. The event will offer attendees various opportunities to hear from Indian law panelists, keynote speakers and social events. 

Slack said the conference is a great chance for students and community members to understand the importance of Indian law.

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“What this conference represents, in part, is Indigenous students, bringing in a lot of Indigenous lawyers to speak about Indigenous issues,” Slack said. “This is an opportunity for you to hear what’s going on right now, and how some of these people are being affected.” 

Indian law is often underrecognized, according to Slack. He said the conference has the opportunity to “do good” by shining light on the important Indian law issues facing the nation and Wisconsin.

“The Indian law community is relatively small,” Slack said. “But then, when there are things like the Enbridge pipeline, that a lot of people have an issue with… it then becomes incumbent upon these tribes who are the only ones who have enough legal standing to battle some of these larger corporations.”

As a descendent of Stockbridge and a law student at UW-Madison, Slack said ILSA was one of the first places in the law school that he felt at home. To him, the conference is an opportunity for Madison community members to understand an issue that is important to him.

“I find this to be an opportunity for the school in general and for the Madison community to make good,” Slack said. “We’ve received tremendous support for this conference from the administration, from the school.”

The conference is open to the public in person and via Zoom in the Wisconsin Law Building. Slack urged anyone interested to register and learn more about Indian law. 

“I would encourage everybody to come out and hang out,” Slack said. “It’s an opportunity to discuss Indian law issues, but also to foster community.”

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Ellie Bourdo

Ellie Bourdo is the features editor for The Daily Cardinal. Ellie previously served as associate news editor, where she specialized in breaking news and University of Wisconsin-System news reporting. She also works at WisPolitics. Follow Ellie on Twitter at @elliebourdo.

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